Committee Approves ART Contract, Small Biz Plan

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Members of a city committee voted 3 to 1 Tuesday to recommend the council approve a contract with MV Transportation, which would provide multiple rider services to sick and disabled residents through the Accessible Raleigh Transportation program (ART).

Councilor Nancy McFarlane voted against the measure, which will be put in before the city council for a final vote on Sept. 6.

The $1.7 million contract, which was up for approval at the council’s Aug. 2 meeting, was referred to the Budget and Economic Development committee after Councilor Eugene Weeks questioned the effects on taxi drivers offering the same transportation services. When committee members could not come to a vote at the Aug. 11 meeting, it was picked up again for additional discussion.

Raleigh Transportation Administrator Dave Eatman said that the ART program has grown from 350,000 passengers in 2009 to 450,000 passengers today and requires $8 million in the transportation budget. By giving MV Transportation 25 percent of the rides that are originating from and going to similar locations, the city could save more than half the cost per trip, Eatman said.

Taxis line up outside the Raleigh train station. Cab owners say business will be impacted by the city's new contract with MV Transportation.

The city uses private taxi companies to provide this curb-to-curb service, but they only give rides to one or two people at a time. Some taxi drivers spoke out against the measure, claiming it would hurt their already dire business if rides were taken away from cabs, who currently offer the same services.

“Proposing this is putting those cab drivers on the soup line,” said Elijah Holloway, manager of Impps Taxi/Handi Service. Holloway said the entire bidding process was unfair and that there are other ways of saving money within the program.

Eatman explained that taxi companies do not have to comply with ADA guidelines unless they are contracted by the city and are being paid for with federal dollars, such as Medicaid. Currently, taxis are considered brokers. Eatman said none of the taxi companies that put in bids for the contract could comply with ADA guidelines.

Small Business Initiative Moves Forward
With Planning Director Mitch Silver back from vacation, the last of some lingering questions about the McFarlane’s small business office seem to have been answered.

Silver said the economic development office has been advertising the position for someone to act as a point of contact for those looking to open a small business.

Silver said the department has also begun working on a landing page for the website that would offer information for small business owners. The page is due to launch in about a month, he said.

McFarlane said that she would like to see the initiative begin so that the city can begin bringing in other resources to help entrepreneurs.

If approved by the city council next month, McFarlane’s proposal would create a point of contact within city hall to field questions from people planning on opening a small business in Raleigh. That person would also direct owners to different organizations if needed. The proposal also calls for the creation of a nine-member commission.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the plan.

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