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Article updated: 12/27/2012 9:33 PM

Lombard broadens taxi codes to level playing field

By Marie Wilson

The definition of "taxi" hasn't changed in the dictionary, but it has in Lombard's village code.

Trustees have approved amendments to the taxi and liveries section of the code in a move that could benefit transportation companies that determine fares using a GPS device instead of a meter.

Lombard-based Flat Rate Cab is one such company that could gain extra business from the change, which allows vehicles with either meters or GPS devices to act as taxis in Lombard, participating in a senior ride subsidy program and lining up at locations such as the downtown Metra station to find customers.

Previously, only vehicles with taxi meters could provide transportation services that were not prearranged, said Chris Stilling, assistant director of community development.

Toni Diperte, one of the owners of Flat Rate Cab, said she plans to apply for a $250 taxi license now that the ordinance has changed.

The 23 vehicles in her company's fleet use GPS devices to determine a trip's mileage and charge passengers a flat rate -- often $2 a mile -- for their trip.

"We're cheaper because we don't have to meter, we're just per mile," Diperte said. "Everything we've done so far has been prearranged."

Flat Rate Cab's vehicles are licensed as liveries through the secretary of state's office, she said.

Since they weren't considered taxis under Lombard's old ordinance, they could not line up at public places like train stations to find riders.

"I wanted to be part of the community, but it didn't work out that way because of the secretary of state giving me limo plates," Diperte said.

Lombard's Acting Village President Peter Breen initiated a review of the code when he realized the old wording was preventing Flat Rate Cab from finding customers in the same ways as the other 11 taxi services licensed with the village.

"There's no reason they shouldn't be able to provide service," Breen said.

The original ordinance was established to protect consumers from price-gouging, Stilling said.

"We establish a ceiling for how much a fare can be," he said.

Price ceilings for taxis using meters are set at a $4 initial fee, 20 cents for each tenth of a mile, $1 for each additional person 12 or older, 40 cents for each minute of waiting time and $8 for a minivan.

Taxis setting fares by GPS can charge a maximum of a $4 initial fee, $2 a mile, $1 for each additional person 12 or older and $8 for a minivan.

Aside from broadening the definition of "taxi," the updated ordinance removes a requirement that the village manager's phone number be posted in each cab.

It requires licensed taxi service providers to participate in the village's taxi subsidy program, which provides low-cost transportation vouchers to people 65 and older and currently has 350 active participants.

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