EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 10, 2013

Lawrence councilors want charm school for cabbies

LAWRENCE — Francisco Hidalgo steered his yellow cab through the bustle outside the Market Basket supermarket on Essex Street yesterday, hopping out at the entrance to help a shopper load groceries into his trunk, as he’s done most work days for 21 years.

A husky 46-year-old city resident who raised two kids from the bounty of his fare box, Hidalgo is neatly dressed, soft-spoken and a little confused about suggestions that local cabbies could use a day or two in charm school.

“There are people in the city who don’t drive well — speeding every day, passing stop signs, don’t respect regulations,” Hidalgo said about what he’s encountered daily during his two decades behind the wheel. “I need to keep my license clean and respect the people who walk on the street, use my service.”

There is a different perspective at City Hall, where city councilors are holding up the license renewals for seven taxi and livery companies until their owners come in and account for the conduct of their drivers.

Councilors say their constituents complain about cabbies who lean on their horns to summon customers out of their homes, pick up fares in the middle of the street rather than pull over, run stop signs and pass stopped school buses, gather in neighborhoods with their engines running through the night, and more.

“There were two drivers holding up traffic, talking about their weekend, on Haverhill Street,” Councilor Sandy Almonte said yesterday, recalling the reaction she got when she suggested they pull over to continue their conversation. “I’m getting yelled at by the driver. I get the finger. How responsible are they as drivers in our city to do something like that?”

Efforts to reach the owners of the seven companies being summoned to Tuesday’s council meeting were not successful. The seven companies are JC Transportation, Liberty Service, Merrimack Valley Transportation, Five Star Express, Popular Taxi, Lawrence United Express and Go Caribe Transportation.

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