The City of Boise has been deploying so-called "ghost riders" to take taxis over the last several years in an effort to monitor cab drivers' service levels.
"Ghost riders are city employees who have occasionally been checking on taxis," said Adam Park, communications director for Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "And they confirmed what we had been hearing from customers."
Park said that what the mayor's office had been hearing wasn't good.
"In the last couple of years in particular, we have received an increased number of complaints from citizens and travelers regarding taxi service," said Park. "Particularly rides to and from the airport."
As a result, staff began working on a proposed taxi ordinance that could dramatically change how cabs operate in Boise.
"This has been a three-year process," said Craig Croner, Boise's administrative services manager, who helped craft the proposed ordinance. "We're really trying to enhance customers' experiences of coming in and out of the airport."
Among the proposed changes: a requirement for all drivers to accept debit and credit cards for payment, no tobacco use by drivers or passengers, and increased frequency of vehicle inspections.
"We don't want to hamstring the taxi industry but we want to have some guidelines in place," said Croner.
Another proposal would require all taxi drivers and owners to demonstrate an ability to read, write and speak English.
"Sometimes a language barrier could lead a driver to take passengers in the wrong location," said Park.
Croner said several people had called City Hall to complain that they hadn't been able to fully communicate with their taxi driver.
"As a result, they were taken way out of their way and had to pay extra," said Croner.
After receiving written comments from stakeholders, the proposed ordinance would come before the Boise City Council at a workshop on Tuesday, Dec. 13, before being scheduled for a public hearing and final vote.
According to the City Clerk's Office, there are currently 70 licensed taxi companies in Boise with a total of 154 cabs.