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May 17, 2013

Cab dispute reaches Superior Court


Vasque also alleged that out-of-town cab companies have been resourceful in trolling for Lawrence’s lucrative taxi business — which is fueled by the fact that many residents can’t afford cars of their own — including by opening underground dispatching centers in the city.

The new law banning the out-of-town companies from working in Lawrence grew from protests by the seven taxi and livery companies that the city licenses. The company owners complained that the cost of doing business is greater for them, in part because the cost of insuring a vehicle in Lawrence is higher than in surrounding municipalities, and so they should be protected from out-of-town companies who can undercut their fares.

“If we need to accommodate these businesses to keep them in the city, we should take those steps,” city Councilor Eileen Bernal said yesterday. “The (out-of-town) cabs are actively seeking out Lawrence fares. It’s not like they’re waiting for their phones to ring in Andover. They’re coming into Lawrence seeking Lawrence fares.”

The cost of operating a cab in Lawrence is driven even higher by the fact that the city capped the number of taxi medallions at 150 several years ago, driving the market value of a medallion to as much as $30,000, according to Tapia’s lawyer, Peter Caruso. The city charges just $250 for a medallion, but allows them to be traded in an open market and so none has become available at that price in a decade, Caruso said.

“A cartel of the 150 taxicab permit holders wants to protect the profits at the expense of both these other taxis and the riding public,” Caruso said in the complaint he filed yesterday, which said many of the cabbies who drive for the Andover company live in Lawrence.

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