OXFORD – Aldermen on Tuesday adopted changes to the taxi ordinance aimed at increasing safety and eliminating rogue taxis.
The ordinance will require that video cameras continuously record the interior of licensed taxis for the safety of both drivers and passengers. (The recorded images may not be distributed, published or sold.)
Taxis must be clean and in safe working order, free of any body damage that could injure a person or damage clothing. Drivers may not use a mobile device while in motion, and no one may smoke in a taxi.
In an effort to reduce the number of unlicensed out-of-town taxis that solicit business in Oxford, the law will require taxis to display a city-issued medallion on their left and right front doors so police can easily identify rogue vehicles.
One proposal in the ordinance changes was eliminated Tuesday. On motion by Alderman John Morgan, a ban on passengers’ sitting in the front seat of taxis was eliminated. That requirement had generated pushback among taxi drivers and owners, on grounds that severely inebriated passengers or those subject to carsickness need to be in front and that a single passenger behind a driver poses more of a robbery or other security-related risk.
Morgan said, “I would like to thank Jay Hughes for all the time and effort he put” into the ordinance change.”
Alderman Hughes, an attorney, had aided in the study of other cities’ ordinances. Based on most of those, he initially pushed for the front-seat restriction.
“I spoke to a number of people [and] I think that what motivated this concern was concern for the safety of the driver,” Hughes said. “Yielding to the general consensus of everything I’ve heard … and a democratic process that I think has worked extremely well, I second Alderman Morgan’s amendment.”
Also on Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen readopted a ban on commercial use of rooftops more than 50 years old, which effectively prohibits rooftop dining or bar areas in the downtown area.
Even for newer buildings, several restrictions would apply, including barriers six feet inside the roof perimeter.
“The roofs of the older buildings around the square were designed for shelter not as support for a live load on the second or third story for assembly,” City Planner Andrea Correll wrote to the mayor and aldermen. “These older structures can only support so much without a complete remodel. Many of these buildings have common walls consisting of decaying brick and mortar. Therefore, it also will affect adjoining structures during retrofit and renovation. There are issues with life safety, such as exiting the rooftop safely and fire hazards to neighboring properties.”
The ordinance had been in effect in the past but was unintentionally left out of an updated code of ordinances.
“The only reason we’re here is because it was dropped out,” said Alderman Janice Antonow. “It was there for a reason, and we need to remember that when we adopt it for a second time.”