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story.lead_photo.caption Checker Cab Company Jefferson City manager Allen Elliott poses next to the familiar green cab. Check officially closed at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 1, 2020. Owner Tom Landwehr plans to semi-retire so will be closing the city's only formal taxi service. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Jefferson City will begin the new year without a cab service, as the city's only service will end at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Checker Cab has been in operation for 40 years and lasted as the city's final taxi service until owner Tom Landwehr recently announced the business would close, leaving Jefferson City without a taxi service.

However, Jefferson City residents aren't entirely out of options for vehicular transportation. Two transportation network companies, Uber and Lyft, currently operate in the city.

In April 2017, then-Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill into law which allowed ride-hailing services, or TNCs, to begin operating in Missouri. In March 2017, the Jefferson City Council voted to amend city code to allow the companies to operate within city limits after applying for a TNC permit with the city.

Both companies opted to hold off on operating in the Jefferson City market until the state bill was signed in April.

Regulations

Now that Jefferson City lacks a cab service, they also lack the ability to regulate the majority of for-hire vehicles in city limits.

For-hire vehicles like taxis or cabs are regulated within the city code in Chapter 34 Article V. Even after Checker Cab closes, the taxi code would still be in effect if another company started up in the city. However, these regulations don't apply to TNCs.

In January 2017, the City Council approved a bill adjusting language in the city code about vehicles for hire so they did not apply to ride-hailing services for a special one-day permit to operate in Jefferson City for the governor's inauguration Jan. 9.

At the time, city staff and City Counselor Ryan Moehlman expressed several concerns they had with the city's inability to regulate the ride-hailing services, including insurance requirements, vehicle inspections and background checks for drivers.

City code requires taxi services to have public liability and property damage insurance on each vehicle being operated on file with the city's director of finance. Drivers of vehicles for Uber or Lyft drive their own vehicles and are required to have their own car insurance.

While they are working, Uber and Lyft drivers are also covered by a policy through the company, according to each company's website.

Jefferson City code also requires vehicles used in a for-hire business must be inspected annually and have a permit issued by the director of finance.

Because Uber or Lyft drivers operate their own vehicles, they are also required to be inspected every other year once they are more than 10 years old or have more than 150,000 miles, according to state law. However, in some cities Uber requires drivers to have a vehicle newer than 10 years old.

City code also outlines qualifications for drivers including a minimum age of 18 and possession of a Missouri commercial driver's license. It also requires an annual review of drivers including a drug test and criminal history report which the permit holder must submit to the city.

Qualifications for driving ride-shares are slightly different. Drivers must be older than 21 and licensed to drive in the state, although a commercial license isn't required. They also require a background check and driving record check.

In 2017, city staff expressed a concern that, without specific regulations, ride-hailing services would only be regulated by their own polices and state regulations for drivers.

Moehlman said these concerns first expressed three years ago are still the main concerns of city staff in regards to TNCs. At the time, the city put in place some regulations for TNCs, but once the statewide regulations went into effect in 2017, they overruled them.

"Essentially cities are preempted from regulating those types of companies," Moehlman said. "When the state law went into effect in 2017, city regulations were preempted, so they're not really effective anymore. TNCs are regulated under state law."

Moehlman said there may be small things cities could regulate, but largely the companies are state-regulated.

Other city regulations for taxis that don't apply to TNCs include requirements that a business operate 24/7 and always have at least three four-door vehicles in operation.

TNC drivers set their own hours by choosing when to work and typically operate more during "peak" traffic hours. They are not required to operate 24 hours a day, and the number of vehicles available during a certain time depends on how many drivers choose to work.

Access

With the loss of taxis, which can be summoned by a phone call, Jefferson City residents and visitors will need a smartphone or other internet access to use vehicular transportation.

Customers who want to call an Uber or Lyft vehicle to their location typically use the companies' smartphone application, which allows the user to put in their desired trip. On-duty drivers then respond, pick up the rider and drop them off. The user also pays through the application using a credit or debit card or other electronic payment method.

Lyft and Uber also offer access to their services on their websites through an online browser if a user does not have a smartphone, but this also requires internet access and a form of electronic payment.

Jefferson City's JeffTran bus service is another option, but it's limited in its hours. JeffTran runs 6:40 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays, meaning it's not available in the late hours of the evening or on weekends.

Bus fares may also be more accessible for low-income residents at $1 per ride, or at a reduced fare of 50 cents for those older than 60 or customers with disabilities.

Checker Cab owner Tom Landwehr said his taxi clients were across the board as far as income level.

"We had a variety of clients," Landwehr said. "We had some that didn't have smartphones and didn't have a credit card, so they couldn't qualify for the ride-share situation."

Landwehr will still offer his other transportation service, Checker Livery, which provides non-emergency medical transportation.

"There are other options out there," Landwehr said.

Safety

The loss of the taxi service means the loss of one more safe option for transportation when intoxicated. Uber and Lyft can also be used as a sober option.

Jefferson City Police Chief Roger Schroeder said the Police Department can't promote one type of transportation over the other, but they do promote a safe lifestyle and safe habits.

Schroeder said other options for ensuring a safe ride home include designating a sober driver in a group, calling a family member or friend for a ride, or staying over at a party venue if possible.

Know of any business happenings around Jefferson City? Let us know at [email protected]

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