After several postponements, council voted in favor of allocating 45 additional permits-–30 to Lone Star Cab Company and 15 to Austin Cab Company. While allocating 45, eight more would be on reserve, bringing the total new permits approved to 53.
The issuing of more permits to Lone Star and Austin Cab were included in two separate items. Council unanimously passed additional permits for Lone Star, while the vote for Austin Cab was 6-1 with Councilman Chris Riley voting "no."
The items had been controversial as both included either bypassing-–or possibly amending-–the annual calculation of necessary franchise permits, also known as "the formula."
Concerns over fairness often come into play when not using the traditional formula, which Robert Spillar, the city's transportation director, said is calculated using population growth and market demand, especially business generated from the airport.
Last year, the city commissioned a study by transportation consultant Dr. Ray A. Mundy, who recommended Austin needed more permits to keep up with increases in population and tourism.
While the items included looking into possible amendments to the formula, changes ultimately was not included in the ordinance. City legal staff explained in this instance, council is waiving the normal standards of the formula, modifying market shares.
Lone Star was established in 2007, making it the newest of the three companies. Under the ordinal formula, the company would represent about 10 percent of the market, while the additional 30 bumps that up to about 14 percent.
Soloman Kassa, president of Lone Star, spoke in support, saying the last five years have been a challenge for the company.
Currently, Lone Star has 53 permits and Austin Cab has 151-–small numbers compared to Austin's third franchise, Yellow Cab, which has 433 permits. Under the formula,Yellow Cab would not recieve additonal permits, while Lone Star and Austin Cab would get 19 each.
Bertha Means, owner of Austin Cab, spoke against straying from the formula.
"It does not strike me as fair to to hand out permits without having to comply to the formula," she stated.
Riley said he heard very valid concerns about not sticking to the formula and voted against Austin Cab's 15 additional permits.
The ordinance goes into effect June 5 and also includes direction to staff to bring additional ordinances in June providing Lone Star with an additional 20 permits and Austin Cab with an additional 10 permits.