After a lot of back and forth between V.I. Port Authority Director Carlton Dowe and numerous St. John taxi drivers at a meeting Friday at the Legislature building on St. John, Dowe finally decided that 40 taxi drivers a day will be able to operate at the Cruz Bay ferry dock.
“Whoever comes in first will go first,” Dowe told the taxi drivers after several questions about the order in which the taxi drivers would get jobs.
The taxi stand will open at 6 a.m.
Initially Dowe said it would close at midnight but he later amended that to 11 p.m. He said no one would be allowed to sleep overnight in their taxis in order to be first in line.
Drivers with taxi medallion numbers one through 40 will work Sunday, the first day the change begins. Those with the next 40 numbers will be on duty Monday with the rest of the 162 medallion holders working sequentially at 40 per day.
Taxicab Commission Director Judith Wheatley said that if more taxis are needed, the dispatcher will call the next set of numbers beginning with the first on the list. If that person wasn’t home, she said the dispatcher would call the next one until he found enough available to meet the need.
Dowe said initially the number would stand at 20 but after several taxi drivers indicated that 20 was probably not enough to meet the ferry dock need, he agreed to up it to 40. Only some of them will be stationed at the dock, with the rest waiting to be called from the Enighed Pond parking lot.
Those taxi drivers who are not assigned to the ferry dock on a given day will still be allowed to work at other locations across the island.
People at the meeting pointed out that many taxi drivers work only part time and because they’ll only be able to work at the ferry dock on their assigned day, which may not work for them, they will lose out.
“This schedule eliminates part-time for my husband,” Catherine Stephens said.
Dowe also told the taxi drivers they must come properly dressed. He said they can’t wear short pants or slippers to work.
Dowe said the Port Authority will no longer allow double parking along the waterfront as is now the practice. He said the taxi drivers will still have use of the 13 parking spots along the waterfront allocated to taxis.
Taxi drivers and all others who use the dock will be charged $10 per day for unlimited trips, to be paid to the dock master stationed at the dock. Dowe clarified after the meeting that although villa management companies may have several people making pickups at the dock, each person picking up guests will have to pay $10 for unlimited pickups.
He didn’t offer any solution for how the villa managers will pick them up since double parking is not allowed. The next nearest parking lot, located across from the post office, has only a handful of spaces available. Normally long-term parkers take up most of the spaces but a V.I. Waste Management project has closed most of those.
Dowe did say that people picking up villa guests will no longer be allowed to stand at the head of the dock with signs bearing the guests’ name. Instead he said a voucher system would be put in place. He did not elaborate on that.
The change in how taxi drivers and others pick up passengers at the dock came about because the Superior Court recently ruled that the St. John Taxi Association no longer has the right to operate the taxi stand. While the Taxi Association held the franchise, non-members were allowed to pick up passengers.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a press release issued a week ago that he decided the Port Authority would operate the taxi stand since it already ran the port.
Dowe said it was in the best interest of the taxi drivers to make the new system work. He pointed out that the taxi industry was about the last business controlled by local residents.
Dowe repeatedly told the 100 people who attended the meeting that this plan was not engraved in stone and that he welcomed suggestions as to how to make it work better.
“If you believe there’s a better way, please tell me,” he said.