Taxi board oversees transportation, no authority over private travel

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Justin Strickland is the new chairman of Chattanooga’s taxi board, which regulates “vehicles for hire,” those involved in commerce. (Photo David Tulis)

Hotel marketing manager Justin Strickland is the new head of the city’s transportation board, a sleepy volunteer regulator that exercises authority over transportation in the city.

By David Tulis / 92.7 NoogaRadio

Mr. Strickland says that the board has a duty to regulate the commercial use of the people’s roads, as well as help the city market itself to visitors, that large group of people who use cabs.

“Public safety is one thing. Because if you have a vehicle that is dangerous,” Mr. Strickland said, “I mean, anywhere from bald tires to wipers not working properly; it sounds simple, but, honestly, if you’re running in the rain and the windshield wipers aren’t working and you’re carrying people who have paid for the service, I mean, that’s obviously dangerous.”

Locals with smartphones use apps for Uber and Lyft whereas the poor are stuck with using regulated cabs, with their above-market prices. Privately owned cars put the public service through Uber are not subject to regulation by the city, but by the department of safety and homeland security.

Mr. Strickland indicates his board follows the traditional powers that cities claimed over commercial use of the public roads by those who make a living or profit from those roads with self-propelled vehicles and other devices.

This authority began at the very beginning of self-locomotion, according to transportation administrative notice in his comprehensive view of Tennessee transportation law.

Mr. Strickland is pleased with the start of his tenure, praising the city police officer devoted to inspecting cabs for his organized presentations of his work.

Marketing Chattanooga

“You have to have some type of regulation to be able to make sure that you keep honest people honest,” Mr. Strickland says.

“But then also, we also have to be really careful about the impression that is given on the city. If you arrive in Chattanooga airport from anywhere across the country, or even the world, and the first thing you see is a line of taxicabs of someone smoking inside and the interiors are dirty and the exteriors are dirty, then that leaves a poor impression of the city.”

“That’s the role of the inspector, basically to catch anything that could possibly give a poor impression.”

Mr. Strickland says he is overseeing for-profit operators, companies and business who are using the people’s roads for their own gain and thus subject to regulation in the public interest.

Complicated code over commerce

“Oh, yeah, and the fact that they are operating in the city, just like any business. It is a very complicated code, the vehicle for hire code. It’s actually more extensive than the building code. There’s actually more to it.”

He commends taxi owners “for following it the best they can.”

Mr. Strickland calls it a great privilege to be on the volunteer transportation board.

To a reporter’s comment that a legal privilege is a grace extended by the city to the operators of cabs, Mr. Strickland replies, “Yeah, I believe I would agree with that, and for good reason. You can’t just let anyone pick up anybody.”

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