Tidying up after drunks

$75 cleanup fee for messes in cabs is fair

By The Mercury

We can’t imagine what the strangest thing the Manhattan City Commission might ever have to deal with would be, but accountability for vomiting in taxis would likely be a contender.

Yet in a community loaded with college students and a considerable contingent of young soldiers, two groups whose members have been known to drink to excess from time to time — and who in states of extreme intoxication might throw up in a cab — it was probably only a matter of time before the issue reached city commissioners.

The good news is that throwing up in taxis apparently isn’t a common occurrence. Although it could occur at any time a passenger is drunk, peak season consists of New Year’s Eve and Fake Patty’s Day. Still, when it happens, it’s unpleasant in the extreme.

As Richard Gibson, who owns Wildcat Taxi Service, told commissioners, “We wouldn’t want to put cabs at the airport… that smell like last week’s football game.” We suspect he was referring to the effects of excessive drinking before, during and after a game, but he deserves credit for making his point without painting too graphic a picture.

We’ll also give city commissioners credit for their unanimous agreement Tuesday that passengers who spill the swill should pay the bill. Commissioners gave cab companies the authority to charge passengers who don’t hold their liquor until they get to their destination $75. That’s supposed to cover cleanup and compensate the cab company for lost business.

The commission’s action doesn’t quite guarantee that the taxi companies will collect, however. That’s because commissioners, who regulate cab companies and their fees, made clear that collecting the cleanup fees would be between the companies and their besotted passengers. Thus, instead of asking riders to pay for their mess, which is all the companies could do in the past, they’ll be able to tell riders who don’t pay that they’re breaking the law. We hope that works.

We’ll also credit Commissioner Karen McCulloh for wondering whether cabs are equipped with barf bags. That’s a good, common-sense notion that might avert a nasty situation.

For drunken passengers who don’t have access to a barf bag or who are too far gone to open it, $75 in cleanup costs is reasonable, as we suspect most of them will agree when they sober up.

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