Are there enough taxis in the city of Wilmington? The city issues 155 taxi permits to cab companies throughout the Port City, and those are the only cabs that can pick up passengers in the Wilmington city limits. Taxi drivers say the system isn’t fair.
A spokesperson for the city of Wilmington said that except for two or three busy hours on the weekend, there is a surplus of taxis throughout the city, but some taxi drivers disagree.
“I’ve had people get in my cab say ‘man we’ve been waiting for an hour and a half, we’ve been waiting 2 hours, we haven’t seen a cab yet’,” said Jared Ohern.
Jared Ohern drives a cab for AAA Coastal Taxi. The company is licensed to pick up passengers at the airport and in Wrightsville Beach. But Coastal Taxi is on a long waiting list for a Wilmington city permit.
“I’ve heard of guys being on it four years and five years,” Ohern said.
The city issues 155 permits to cab companies. If an unlicensed company picks up a passenger in the city they could face a $250 fine and have their car impounded.
“To us it is really valuable. I mean as much as buying gold,” said Majed Shannak of AAA Coastal Taxi.
Ohern and Shannak say these permits are worth so much to a driver, some companies are selling them on the black market.
“Some of these numbers are going for $10,000, for a $25 permit,” Ohern said.
Companies that have the permits, don’t want more issued because it would mean more competition for business.
One permitted driver said there are already too many cabs, but Ohern says there are plenty of passengers to go around. “If you come down here any time people are waiting on cabs.>
For AAA Coastal Taxi, increasing it’s customer base in a struggling economy could provide enough business to fuel the company through the recession.
“I put my time, my money, all my effort to build this company and W-numbers will definitely save our business,” Shannak said.
Cab companies must have taxis with W-permits inspected every year. The Wilmington Police Department issues the permits and the inspector says he believes there are more than enough permits for the amount of business throughout the city.