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Dec 20, 2016 5:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Fingerprinting Of Taxi Drivers Now Required In East Hampton

Dec 20, 2016 5:37 PM

East Hampton Town will begin requiring its licensed taxi drivers to be fingerprinted starting next spring as part of a battery of improvements to its taxi laws adopted last week.

The new laws mandate fingerprinting of all drivers—a requirement that has been on the town’s books for two years but couldn’t be enforced until the town contracts with a state-approved agency to conduct and catalog the fingerprinting.

The law will also tighten laws intended to prevent cab companies from outsourcing, or subletting, their driving to short-term drivers who essentially rent the cars owned by local companies—a practice that officials and small cab company owners say has a bad effect on the way cab drivers behave.

The owners of three of the dozens of taxi companies that operate in East Hampton in summertime raised some concerns about the new fingerprinting requirements, and the notoriously slow wheels of government, hampering their ability to ramp up their business as the summer gets into full swing.

“I agree with the background checks for drivers, but it’s a hardship for the owners,” said Mark Ripolone, who owns Ditch Plains Taxi in Montauk. “We’ve got 100,000 people coming to the Hamptons [on Memorial Day]. With the fingerprinting, they say it’s one to two weeks, but we all know how government works.”

A delay of a week or two, or more, could leave a taxi company hamstrung if it needs to hire a new driver mid-season, Mr. Ripolone said.

Mr. Ripolone, whose company operates a handful of cabs only in Montauk, said that a bigger problem the town should tackle is the subletting of cars by local companies—a practice in which a cab company with dozens of locally registered cars will rent or lease a car to a driver from out of town for a period of time as short as one day. Those drivers therefore have only a fixed window in which to earn enough money to cover the lease and put money in their pockets.

Mr. Ripolone said that sublet drivers will ignore accepted protocols for picking up riders at train stations and outside popular restaurants and bars, sometimes grabbing customers luggage or even the customers themselves to pull them toward their cab before they choose another.

The updated taxi law forbids transferring a town taxi license to a driver for compensation, which the town hopes will tamp down the aggressive hacking.

“It creates a dynamic that makes their vested interest in the business limited,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said of the subletting practice. “You end up with people hustling fares, soliciting or physically pulling people, the kind of things that cause some real problems and that cab owners avoid to boost their relationship to their patrons in the long term.”

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Think it is a GREAT idea. If they are licensed taxi drivers, it should be mandatory.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Dec 22, 16 1:22 PM