Council votes to regulate by-donation rides

By Ryan Wynne

There’s one good thing you could say about the recession: It spurs creativity. A lot of people are creating their own jobs. One of these creative persons recently led the Bellingham City Council to change the city’s municipal code.

The council voted unanimously Oct. 11 expand the definition of compensation for taxi cabs and for-hire vehicles in the city to include donations and gratuities.

The change stemmed from complaints about a man who was operating an unlicensed taxi. The man, who typically operates during early morning hours downtown, had a sign on his car that advertised rides by donation.

A city code enforcement officer contacted him and he indicated that he was in the process of obtaining a state business license. However, he did not have a city business license, nor was he in compliance with Bellingham Municipal Code 6.54, which regulates taxicabs and for-hire vehicles.

His argument for avoiding regulation was that he accepts donations rather than charging a set fare, so his business should not subject to regulation or licensing.

The ordinance council approved said the city has an interest in regulating these vehicles in order to preserve public peace, health, safety, and welfare, and to ensure regulations are applied in a uniform and fair manner.

With council’s vote to close the loophole, by-donation taxis and for-hire vehicles will have to adhere to the same regulations and licensing requirements as those that charge.

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