Scottsdale permitted to regulate taxicabs downtown

A bill recently signed into state law will give Scottsdale and other municipalities the authority to control taxicabs in certain areas.

Scottsdale wants to use Senate Bill 1152, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed in April, to set aside a road lane for taxis downtown.

City officials say the law will make it safer for pedestrians to grab a taxi safely and quickly, as well as cut down on traffic gridlock, allowing first responders to navigate through the busy downtown entertainment district, known for its conglomeration of nightclubs and restaurants.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, taxis and other for-hire vehicles cruise the streets downtown, waiting to pick up patrons leaving the bars and clubs.

But the traffic congestion has caused delays in response times for law enforcement, and the threat of further delays was lingering, city officials have said.

Shortly before 2 a.m. on July 20, a person was fostund lying on the sidewalk in front of the Maya Day + Nightclub, 7333 E. Indian Plaza, unconscious and having seizures, according to a police report. It took fire responders 15 to 18 minutes to arrive on scene, mostly because of congestion from taxis and golf carts, according to the report.

SB 1152, which takes effect in July, allows cities to create special safety districts for passenger-convenience areas and taxi lanes.

In 2011, the Legislature passed a law banning the regulation of taxi activities by a county or municipality anywhere in the state, though public airports are exempt, said Brad Lundahl, Scottsdale’s government-relations director.

The new law lifts the ban so cities can regulate for-hire vehicles, with some restrictions.

City councils can adopt ordinances creating as many as two “transportation-safety zones” of up to 3 square miles each. Within the zones, they can establish “passenger-convenience areas,” such as passenger-convenience areas, and vehicle-for-hire lanes. The zones can’t include a state highway or state route.

“We can get emergency responders in much quicker,” Lundahl said. “For the taxis, they can get people in and out of the area much quicker.”

Lundahl said there is no date set yet on when changes will be enacted.

“Right now, we’re going through the review process and trying to lay out when we would bring it to council,” he said, adding the city wants “a smooth rollout that’s well advertised, making sure the community and business know about it.”

The Scottsdale Police Department sees a public-safety benefit of creating specific areas where pay-for-hire vehicles can stage and pick up customers in the congested downtown, department spokesman Officer David Pubins said.

“This will alleviate the issues related to these vehicles stopping in the middle of traffic to pick up a fare, which is also very dangerous for pedestrians,” Pubins said.

Scottsdale’s downtown-entertainment district spans east of Buckboard Trail, from Sixth Avenue to Camelback Road.

In Scottsdale, a taxi lane downtown was seen as the better option over passenger-convenience areas, Lundahl said.

Several streets in the bar district were turned into one-way thoroughfares to improve the flow of traffic. These include Saddlebag Trail south from Camelback Road, westbound Shoeman Lane and Buckboard Trail heading north. The city proposes to convert one lane into a taxi queue.

“This was a really good concept we came up with working with the taxi-cab companies,” Lundahl said. “It’s going to benefit them and it will benefit us.”

Stanton Sipes, director of business development for Total Transit, the parent company of Discount Cabs, said the company worked closely with Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and other city officials to come up with a good plan to regulate taxis.

“It was so important to work with the city,” Sipes said. “They want us there. They want patrons who have had too much to drink to be able to easily access a safe ride.”

Lundahl said Tempe and Tucson officials contacted Scottsdale with questions about the bill.

Tempe has no plans to pursue taxi-cab stands right now, city officials said. A Tucson official wasn’t immediately available for comment.

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