A new ordinance establishing a flat-rate fare for Chapel Hill’s taxis went into effect Jan. 1 — more than a year after former Student Body President Mary Cooper proposed the regulations in an effort to improve student safety.
The regulations, approved by the Chapel Hill Town Council in September, set a flat rate between $6 and $8 for a 1.5 mile radius in the Chapel Hill Central Business District, encompassing all of downtown and most of UNC’s campus. The ordinance also set a fixed rate of $2.50 per mile outside of the zone and a $5 flat rate during special events like football games.
Cooper said students avoided cab services due to inconsistent rates and past regulations left students vulnerable to uncertified taxis or being overcharged.
Current Student Body President Will Leimenstoll continued Cooper’s efforts in the fall.
“I think that overall it just simplifies the process for using taxis in Chapel Hill,” he said. “That means less people will risk their safety by trying to walk home at night or trying to take some other form of transportation that may not be as safe.”
Lesley Parr, owner of Time To Go Taxi, initially opposed the ordinance but now thinks it benefits taxi companies as well as students.
Parr said he hopes the ordinance will discourage uncertified taxi services from coming to Chapel Hill.
“Now they’re going to run the rogue taxicabs, the ‘vultures,’ I call them, mostly out of Durham,” Parr said. “The police department now can tell them to leave town. That’s great, that’s beautiful.”
The ordinance also allows customers to file complaints if they felt they were overcharged.
“If people called in saying somebody charged me $25 to go three blocks, there was actually nothing (the police) could do about it because there wasn’t a law,” Parr said.
Town Council member Lee Storrow said there have been few complaints about the new ordinance, although some say the different zones can be confusing.
“Personally, I think that moving to a meter-based system is really the most efficient way and the fairest way for taxis to operate,” Storrow said.
Senior Matt Ventura said few students regularly need taxis, but the flat-rate system is easier to understand.
“For me, I don’t think it would actually change the likelihood of me getting a taxi. If I need one, I’ll get one, and if I don’t, I won’t. But having a constant price is really nice.”
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