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Bill of Rights Proposed for Taxi Passengers

May 25, 2009 — Customer service is the new watchword of the V.I. Taxi Commission, according to Judith Wheatley, executive director of the commission and keynote speaker at last Wednesday's general meeting of the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association.
Taxi drivers in the Virgin Islands have long been a bane of existence for islanders and tourists alike. Improper conduct, flagrant disregard of traffic laws and discrimination against local fares by many drivers has given the entire industry a bad name.
Wheatley emphasized that the commission is under new leadership committed to customer service and that changes are being made. One of her current projects is a new website and a promotional campaign.
"Most people think V.I. Taxi Association is the Taxicab Commission," she said. "They are not, and we want to educate the community about that. V.I Taxi Association is an association of vehicles for hire, and the Taxicab Commission is a government agency that oversees the regulation of the vehicles-for-hire industry."
When the floor opened to questions, Tom Bolt, managing attorney of Tom Bolt & Associates and general counsel for the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association, proposed that the local commission consider adopting a Taxicab Riders Bill of Rights that would clearly delineate the rights that V.I. taxicab riders can expect. The proposed bill of rights provides that taxicab riders are entitled to:
— A driver who speaks and understands English, knows and obeys all traffic laws, is knowledgeable of island geography and is able to take you to your destination in the quickest time and by the shortest route;
— A taxi driver who practices good hygiene, does not smoke in their cab and is polite and respectful of their customers;
— A taxi that arrives at the pick up point within a reasonable amount of time after a request has been placed;
— Your driver's automobile-for-hire identification badge visibly posted in the vehicle;
— A ride in a taxicab that is in safe working order with functioning air condition (if applicable), a clean passenger and trunk compartment and a clean exterior;
— For persons with disabilities to ride in a wheelchair-accessible taxi, accompanied by a service animal (when applicable), and to have easy access for physically challenged passengers;
— A noise-free trip: no deliberate horn honking, no boisterous music on the radio and a driver who is not using their cell phone to conduct a personal conversation;
— To be charged the rates as posted on the official tariff issued by the Taxicab Commission, including any surcharges, and to be able to view the official tariff if a discrepancy arises;
— To file complaints and offer commendations by calling the V.I. Taxicab Commission at (340) 693-4211; and
— Decline to tip for poor service.
In addressing the Hotel and Tourism Association, Bolt noted that his proposal was based on V.I. law and other taxicab rider bill of rights adopted throughout the United States.
"It is unacceptable that Virgin Islanders and the guests who utilize our taxicabs every day cannot expect basic levels of service," Bolt said. "If customer service is the new watchword of our Taxicab Commission, they should also agree to give our riders what is required by law and is the industry standard."
Bolt requested that the bill of rights become V.I. Taxicab Commission policy and be posted in every cab.
"Virgin Islanders demand better taxicab service, and Taxicab Riders Riders' Bill of Rights would ensure a more equitable relationship between the taxicab industry and its riders," Bolt said.
Wheatley gave full support to Bolt's proposed bill of rights and in fact collaborated with him on some of the wording.
"The drivers know what they are supposed to do," Wheatley said. "We want the passengers to know what they should expect."
One of her biggest challenges has been drivers' use of cell phones for personal calls while transporting passengers. While reprimanding a driver this morning for that very offense, she said, "Keep your laundry in your washing machine!"
Julie Crandall, a meeting planner with Morley Companies out of Saginaw, Mich., brought 42 Audi employees to the Marriott Frenchman's Bay for five days last month. She and her client were picked up at the airport and, according to Crandall, "Our driver was on his cell phone from the time we got in the vehicle until he unloaded our last bag at the hotel." She continued, "The unloading took forever because he had only one hand available. I could not believe that this was our welcome to St. Thomas!"
V.I. Code states that all drivers are to be polite to their passengers. As evidenced by complaints commonly heard over the years, that is not always the case. It also states, "Upon tender of cash fare, operators or automobiles for hire while on duty on the public streets shall accept all public-hire jobs which are proffered to them and shall not discriminate against any prospective passenger."
"When I was pregnant and without a car, it would take me at least 10 or 11 tries to find a taxi that would carry me to the Northside," said Linda Caiger, a longtime St. Thomas resident. "I used to wait until the vehicle was moving before I told them where I was going, hoping they wouldn't refuse."
She didn't realize she any recourse at the time.
"I wish I had known it was against the law," Caiger said.
Wheatley will present the Taxicab Riders Bill of Rights before the V.I. Taxicab Commission at its next meeting June 19.
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May 25, 2009 -- Customer service is the new watchword of the V.I. Taxi Commission, according to Judith Wheatley, executive director of the commission and keynote speaker at last Wednesday's general meeting of the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association.
Taxi drivers in the Virgin Islands have long been a bane of existence for islanders and tourists alike. Improper conduct, flagrant disregard of traffic laws and discrimination against local fares by many drivers has given the entire industry a bad name.
Wheatley emphasized that the commission is under new leadership committed to customer service and that changes are being made. One of her current projects is a new website and a promotional campaign.
"Most people think V.I. Taxi Association is the Taxicab Commission," she said. "They are not, and we want to educate the community about that. V.I Taxi Association is an association of vehicles for hire, and the Taxicab Commission is a government agency that oversees the regulation of the vehicles-for-hire industry."
When the floor opened to questions, Tom Bolt, managing attorney of Tom Bolt & Associates and general counsel for the USVI Hotel & Tourism Association, proposed that the local commission consider adopting a Taxicab Riders Bill of Rights that would clearly delineate the rights that V.I. taxicab riders can expect. The proposed bill of rights provides that taxicab riders are entitled to:
-- A driver who speaks and understands English, knows and obeys all traffic laws, is knowledgeable of island geography and is able to take you to your destination in the quickest time and by the shortest route;
-- A taxi driver who practices good hygiene, does not smoke in their cab and is polite and respectful of their customers;
-- A taxi that arrives at the pick up point within a reasonable amount of time after a request has been placed;
-- Your driver's automobile-for-hire identification badge visibly posted in the vehicle;
-- A ride in a taxicab that is in safe working order with functioning air condition (if applicable), a clean passenger and trunk compartment and a clean exterior;
-- For persons with disabilities to ride in a wheelchair-accessible taxi, accompanied by a service animal (when applicable), and to have easy access for physically challenged passengers;
-- A noise-free trip: no deliberate horn honking, no boisterous music on the radio and a driver who is not using their cell phone to conduct a personal conversation;
-- To be charged the rates as posted on the official tariff issued by the Taxicab Commission, including any surcharges, and to be able to view the official tariff if a discrepancy arises;
-- To file complaints and offer commendations by calling the V.I. Taxicab Commission at (340) 693-4211; and
-- Decline to tip for poor service.
In addressing the Hotel and Tourism Association, Bolt noted that his proposal was based on V.I. law and other taxicab rider bill of rights adopted throughout the United States.
"It is unacceptable that Virgin Islanders and the guests who utilize our taxicabs every day cannot expect basic levels of service," Bolt said. "If customer service is the new watchword of our Taxicab Commission, they should also agree to give our riders what is required by law and is the industry standard."
Bolt requested that the bill of rights become V.I. Taxicab Commission policy and be posted in every cab.
"Virgin Islanders demand better taxicab service, and Taxicab Riders Riders' Bill of Rights would ensure a more equitable relationship between the taxicab industry and its riders," Bolt said.
Wheatley gave full support to Bolt's proposed bill of rights and in fact collaborated with him on some of the wording.
"The drivers know what they are supposed to do," Wheatley said. "We want the passengers to know what they should expect."
One of her biggest challenges has been drivers' use of cell phones for personal calls while transporting passengers. While reprimanding a driver this morning for that very offense, she said, "Keep your laundry in your washing machine!"
Julie Crandall, a meeting planner with Morley Companies out of Saginaw, Mich., brought 42 Audi employees to the Marriott Frenchman's Bay for five days last month. She and her client were picked up at the airport and, according to Crandall, "Our driver was on his cell phone from the time we got in the vehicle until he unloaded our last bag at the hotel." She continued, "The unloading took forever because he had only one hand available. I could not believe that this was our welcome to St. Thomas!"
V.I. Code states that all drivers are to be polite to their passengers. As evidenced by complaints commonly heard over the years, that is not always the case. It also states, "Upon tender of cash fare, operators or automobiles for hire while on duty on the public streets shall accept all public-hire jobs which are proffered to them and shall not discriminate against any prospective passenger."
"When I was pregnant and without a car, it would take me at least 10 or 11 tries to find a taxi that would carry me to the Northside," said Linda Caiger, a longtime St. Thomas resident. "I used to wait until the vehicle was moving before I told them where I was going, hoping they wouldn't refuse."
She didn't realize she any recourse at the time.
"I wish I had known it was against the law," Caiger said.
Wheatley will present the Taxicab Riders Bill of Rights before the V.I. Taxicab Commission at its next meeting June 19.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.