Originally created 12/07/00

Cab fees are rare but legal



Charging cab companies monthly fees to pick up passengers seems to be an unprecedented decision on the part of Augusta Mall.

Such fees are unheard of in Columbia, Macon and Savannah, according to mall managers in those cities.

And representatives from the company that owns the mall - Maryland-based Rouse Co. - say the Augusta facility is the only one of 60 Rouse-owned malls that has chosen to enforce such regulations.

Richmond County Attorney Jim Wall searched for a precedent and came up empty-handed as well.

Still, the regulations that the mall started enforcing Tuesday are legal, Mr. Wall said, though they might be unpopular with the majority of Augusta's cabbies.

"For taxis picking up, I think that they can probably charge a fee. Basically, (taxis) are doing business at the mall when they are picking up," he said. "I couldn't find anything that prohibited them from doing that. See, that's private property. We can't regulate what people do on their property."

County Licensing and Inspection Director Rob Sherman asked Mr. Wall to investigate whether the cabbies who decided to pay the $85 registration and $60 monthly fees per car could then legally absorb the cost by charging cab customers a higher rate.

"I don't think that (taxis) can do that, absent getting a new rate approved by the (Augusta) Commission," Mr. Wall said.

Mall representatives said more than six of the city's 125 cabs were registered at the mall as of Wednesday. They said they would offer no further comment until mall General Manager Linda Hardin returns to the office today.

Rouse Co. spokeswoman Nancy Tucker said the company supports the regulations "because of (Fort Gordon) and the transportation situation," which made Augusta different from its other properties. Many of the cab users are patrons who live at the fort. Ms. Hardin has said previously that the regulations were brought on by the poor standards exhibited by some of the drivers who pick up mall patrons.

"If we have problems with (the taxis), we kick them off the site," said Shema Krinsky, marketing director for Columbia Mall. She added that the situation in Columbia is comparable to Augusta's because hundreds of Fort Jackson Army trainees use taxi services to visit the mall each month.

"We have several taxis that sit on site," she said. "It's an extra amenity for the customers to have the taxis available.

"I don't see how charging will make it better for the customer. I don't grasp that idea. That would deter them from coming here."

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851.