Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why the limits on taxicab owner's licenses?

The City of Trenton, like many cities across New Jersey and the nation, set an arbitrary limit on the number of taxicabs the city will license.  In Trenton, City Code § 272-4(B), sets the maximum number of cabs at 82.  Cities don't limit the number of bakeries or shoe stores in a town, so why taxicabs?  Does this type of restriction benefit the public good or is its aim to protect existing cab owners from competition?

Similar taxicab limits have been struck down in other states for violating constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal protection under the law.  In a 2013 case, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Jane Carroll found that Milwaukee's limit on taxicab licenses failed an equal protection analysis because it wasn't rationally related to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare.  Judge Carroll's ruling, which is on-line here, states that the arbitrary limit on taxicabs indicates "the desire of the City to create a valuable asset for the current permit holders so that they could sell them and, as the one taxi driver indicated, retire comfortably to Florida, that's simply not a legitimate government purpose."