Vomiting in taxicabs now comes at a cost

By Megan Moser

If you upchuck in the cab after a night out, you may soon find that you pay for it with more than just a hangover. 

City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure allowing local taxi companies to charge riders who vomit in or otherwise soil their vehicles. The $75 fee covers cleaning and the amount of time the cab is out of service.

“We wouldn’t want to put cabs at the airport… that smell like last week’s football game,” said Richard Gibson, owner of Wildcat Taxi Service.

Gibson, who brought the proposal to the commission, said retching is not a big problem most of the time, but it is a bigger issue on Fake Patty’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

“If it were something out of the patrons’ hands, we would have a little understanding,” Gibson said. “But most of these are because of your own overindulgence. Nobody’s forcing that green beer down your throats.”

He said currently taxi drivers ask offending riders to pay for cleaning, but drivers cannot require them to fork over the money. That’s because taxi charges are regulated by the city, and the cleaning fee was not an approved charge.

City Attorney Bill Raymond pointed out that the city would have no part in collecting the fee; taxi companies will have to do that. But the change gives companies legal recourse if riders don’t pay.

Commissioner Wynn Butler supported the measure, but noted that he didn’t think the rates should be regulated by the city at all.

“Other businesses can charge whatever they want,” Butler said. “But there’s an ordinance that tells them what to charge.”

Commissioner Karen McCulloh wondered whether the proposal should be extended to riders who throw up on ATA Bus, but Raymond said it doesn’t fall under the ordinance scheme for taxis.

Commissioner Rich Jankovich wondered if it should be extended to those in police custody.

“What if they do it in the PD car?” he asked jokingly. “Do we get to charge them then?”

McCulloh offered another suggestion for cab drivers. “Do you have throw-up bags in the cabs?” she asked. Gibson said he could look into it.

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