Cabbies react to judge's ruling on city reforms

Cab drivers react a day after a federal judge rules in favor of the city on controversial taxi reforms. The city's new upgrades, which require cabs to accept credit cards, have GPS systems, and security cameras, will be implemented immediately.

It's the first, and sometimes last, impression a visitor gets when they arrive to the Big Easy.

"I know that change is good, you don't have to be scared of it, you just have to embrace it, and see how you can make it work," said Sheree Kerner.

Kerner, former Pres. of United Cab, has now started her own cab company, Nawlins Cab.

"We had a difference in philosophy, you know.  I kinda agreed with the city that we needed to do something to improve customer service in the city," said Kerner.

She says the new reforms makes good business sense. This weekend, she's preparing to roll out 30 new cabs.

"And it's fully city-compliant vehicles.  We've got the cameras in there, which I think we need the cameras for safety," said Kerner.

August 1 was when the city's dramatic reforms for cabbies were supposed to take effect.  But because of law suits from some cab companies, a restraining order bought them a little time.

"But now the reforms are in place, and we're going to actually implement that through a phase-in process," said Malachi Hull, Dir. of Taxicab Bureau.

It will affect cabs on a staggered basis as they go for their inspections, a process city leaders hope will take about six months.  Hull says that's just in time for cabbies to drive Super Bowl visitors around in upgraded cabs next year.

"Our overall objective was to improve public safety, driver safety, as well as improve customer service, and we think our reforms are going to do that," said Hull.

The new rules include prohibitions on cabs more than 10 years old, and require cabs to accept credit cards, have GPS systems and security cameras.

Some cab drivers had argued the reforms would cost too much, but Judge Eldon Fallon says the upgrades will improve public safety.

"I'm going to spend a lot of money and I cannot afford it, and to do these things you have to have time," said cabbie Berhane Michael.

Michael is one of many cabbies who say they weren't given enough time to enact the changes and voice their concerns.

"Drivers are not going to be able to just buy cabs like tomorrow," said cabbie Joseph Rasheed. "I mean, if I can't get the stuff, I don't know if there is financing or something like that, but if I can't, I will probably just quit."

The judge did rule in favor of the drivers on the issue of their licenses, called CPNC's. Judge Fallon ruled the licenses are the property of cab operators, and cannot be taken away by the city for non-compliance.

The city says it's pleased with the outcome, and feels confident the court will ultimately rule in its favor on the license issue.