A city committee approved legislation Wednesday allowing taxicabs to drive with fewer restrictions on State Street, an amendment which would make it easier for downtown customers to find a cab in the evening and early morning if approved by Madison's Common Council next week.
The Transit and Parking Commission voted in favor of an amendment allowing cabs to cruise on the city's most energetic street between the hours of 7 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Mayor Paul Soglin opposed the amendment, citing the dangers of increasing the number of cars on State Street due to high liquor sales in the area.
“One of the most important aspects of the street is the feel that it provides with its minimal motor vehicle traffic," Soglin said.
Union cab driver Dee Pachlhofer disagreed, saying cabs should be “visible” on State Street at night.
"[Students] see a cab and say ‘Oh, that’s a good idea,'" Pachlhofer said.
Previous regulations restricted cabs from driving more than one block on State Street at a time after pick up or drop off of a passenger.
To buy themselves time on the street, drivers often waited at curbs and in loading zones in hopes of finding customers, a practice Soglin has tried to end.
Hawk Sullivan, a bar owner on State Street, said tourism in Madison “has skyrocketed in the last 10 years,” and more tourists spend time at the street’s many restaurants and bars.
“Cab drivers just need to go where the people are demanding the service,” Sullivan said. “[The drinking culture] will not change overnight, but this legislation can.”
One of two members of the commission to vote against the amendment was former Alder Ken Golden.
“One of the more compelling things tonight was who wasn’t here,” Golden said. “We really had people who were here because it affected their livelihood and we also had people here who were trying to predict what affect this might have on their customers, and we didn’t have the customers.”
Madison’s Common Council will review the amendment for final approval at its meeting Tuesday.