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Doing the taxi shuffle


Cab drivers in Boise are hacked off about the city's new policy of moving them out of the way of traffic around the bars at 6th and Main, but police say the strategy is working.

After years of dealing with weekend mayhem on and around that corner, Mayor Dave Bieter and the Boise City Council decided earlier this month on a new ordinance to require cabs to wait for their inebriated passengers near the intersection of Capitol and Main streets, to divert the hordes away from the Old Boise area. Reaction from cabbies was quick: This stinks.

"I don't know why they're picking on us," said Roger Litton, an independent driver for Roadrunner Taxi.

Many drivers said that most of their income comes from two hot spots in town: the Boise Airport and 6th and Main. Now, they fear one of those may be lost, or much harder to get to.

Jim Kennedy, another independent driver, estimates he lost about $200 last weekend because he gave up trying to jockey for position with the other cabbies who flocked to the new city-sanctioned location on Friday night.

"There was a lot of tension in the air on Friday and Saturday night," Kennedy said.

Mark Dewey is one of the drivers who told the city at their public meeting that this was a bad idea. He worried that larger cab companies would "flood the line" and squeeze out independents trying to get into position to pick up passengers.

But City Councilor Alan Shealy said the decision was a good one, because the flood of customers in and around the bars, waiting for cabs and hunting for food vendors, was too risky a situation.

"We are charged with relatively few things in this city," Shealy said. "One of those things is public safety."

Boise Police Department spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said the first weekend under the new rules "seemed to go pretty well." There were extra officers--including Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson--on hand, and a few citations were written, but for the most part, officers were issuing warnings to jaywalkers and cabbies. Taxis got 17 warnings over the course of Friday and Saturday night, she said.

Now, cabbies say they need to get more involved, in the face of more city regulation.

"We have to get together," said Imre Nagy, an independent who drives for Town and Country taxis.