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Is the continuation of Lincoln's regulation of cab fare still necessary
and helpful?         
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By Jim Youngquist

[AUG. 20, 2005]  Michelle Squaire of American Cab and Brian Rankin of Lincoln Land Taxi appeared at recent city council and ordinance committee meetings, requesting that the city update the prices the cab companies can charge. Apparently, the pricing that the city mandates for a cab ride hasn't changed for the last 13 years, although some of the costs to run a cab certainly have. If we take the price of gasoline alone, it's hard to understand how the two cab companies have been able to stay in business here.

The ordinance committee did indeed determine to recommend the two companies' fare increases, and it is being done in a timely fashion. The fares aren't as much as Squaire asked for, but it should help them stay in business. They should be able to continue to provide transportation to people who rely on the service, whether out of financial constraints or for other reasons, in Lincoln, a city without any local public transportation.

The question I raise is whether it is time to consider deregulating cab fares completely in Lincoln. Other communities our size and larger have either decided not to regulate their cab companies or have in fact deregulated them.

In this business climate across the country, deregulation seems to be the fad. Competition is said to bring about better pricing for the consumer and is said to bring about better service. I have yet to see whether this is true.

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Since the city of Lincoln has licensed two cab companies to operate in Lincoln, what advantage is there to continuing to regulate the fare structure? Won't competition in fact be a better regulator of fares?

Some regulation is necessary for the community. Regulating the quality of food and food establishments is in the public interest. Regulating the speed limit and traffic flow is in the public interest. Regulating the pollutants citizens can dump into our environment is in the public interest. However, won't the public gain if the cab industry in Lincoln is told to charge what the market will bear, rather than adhering to a set pricing structure?

[Jim Youngquist]

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