Fair Ride: Taxis found breaking the rules

By Matt Porter

February 27, 2014 Updated Feb 27, 2014 at 10:59 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When Broome County Security began its oversight of taxi service in 2010, the county said it was the first time taxis would be held accountable.

"The county taking this over made a giant leap and a giant success to give the tools to the other municipalities and other law enforcement agencies," said James Dadamio, director of Broome Security.

Since the county took the helm, there have been 1,128 complaints to the security office, according to county records. Less than 15 percent, or 157 of those made it to court, and 18 resulted in a suspension of either a driver or company license, records show.

There have been no license revocations, although some suspended drivers did not return, the investigation found.

Overcrowding was the chief problem, including a driver who told more than a dozen students to scatter from her cab after an accident, and another filling a minivan with almost 20 people, according to suspension reports.

Julianna Miles, a Binghamton University student, says overloading happens every weekend.

"Downtown is really crowded, so they pack out the cabs to get as much people back as possible," Miles said. "Sometimes you have to sit on people's laps or sit on the floor."

The investigation involved two cabs owned by separate companies --A2B Taxi and Haight Taxi-- taken between Binghamton University and downtown. Both were overloaded.

The companies either didn't return calls seeking comment, or declined comment altogether.

When Dadamio was asked if he was worried about an accident from an overloaded cab, he said, "I don't accept the drivers say this is what we do. I don't accept that."

But drivers say filling cabs is the only way to get out of the red on a weekend night.

One cab driver who refused to give his name told a Broome County Security officer at a checkpoint on a Saturday night that anyone who says they don't load up is lying.

"Everybody's overloading, period," the driver said. "If somebody says 'I'm not overloading,' that's not right, nobody profits."

Dadamio said his department does everything it can to keep taxi drivers in line, including running random checkpoints downtown and at Binghamton University with university police.

"We do everything we can to address overcrowding," Dadamio said.

Dadamio said he also relies on drivers to be safe.

"It's part of the businesses and driver's responsibility," he said. "I expect them to do it and I'm requiring them to do it."

Action News also found taxi cabs regularly break the rules when refusing to take anyone except Binghamton University students on the weekends.

The county law requires the driver to take the passenger where they want to go, unless a customer is belligerent or visibly impaired or intoxicated.

But the investigation found 12 or more cabs refused to take a fare to Endicott at a public taxi stand.

Instead, the cab drivers said they would only be shuttling students to campus.

And students sometimes get into a cab with others headed to the main campus hoping they can be dropped off at University Plaza, the private housing complex next door.

But Tyler Groves, a Binghamton University student, said he's seen those students left stranded without a way home.

"In the worst occasions, we'll drive to campus and then they'll tell them then," Groves said. "They'll say, 'Well you're going to have to get off here because we won't drive you at U.P.' And they'll be stranded on campus."

Dadamio said there are 33 taxi companies with 194 drivers. He said most of them obey the law.

"They have a taxi license, they have an operator's license. And with those licenses comes rules," he said.

In fact, he needs them to, he said, because when the county isn't looking, it's a blind spot drivers can use to cash in.

The complete bill of rights for taxi passengers can be found here.

(This is part two of a two-part series.)