Hailing a cab in Dickinson gets easier
Dickinson residents without a vehicle might find it a bit easier to traverse the city by the end of the year.
The city has issued three taxicab licenses since January and expects more applications as the year progresses.
Before this year, Dickinson issued so few taxicab licenses that it didn't keep track, said Rita Binstock, assistant to the city administrator.
"Things have changed in our community," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said. "Population has obviously increased dramatically and the demand for rides has also increased."
Before the oil boom, Kessel said people were complaining about the unreliability of cab services in the city. After that, that service was consolidated with Elder Care and service had been running smoothly ever since.
The perception of unreliable cab service is something new providers have had to overcome, said Megan Patrick, CEO of E-CAB in Dickinson.
"That's one of our major hurdles here is overcoming that stigma because it was here when we got here," she said. "I was really, really upset that -- for a new company coming in -- that's not a hurdle you should have to overcome."
Patrick moved to North Dakota from Alaska in January and chose Dickinson by default.
"I was actually going to Bismarck and my car broke down in Dickinson," she said. "I just never left."
Patrick hasn't had any unexpected issues, and has been surprised by the honesty of the people here.
"We've had people call us the next day, literally, 'I have your money for you, can you come by and pick it up?'" after getting a ride home from the bar and forgetting to pay, she said.
The Dickinson Police Department occasionally gets reports from drivers of passengers refusing to pay, but has not received a report of drivers exploiting passengers, Capt. Joe Cianni said.
"We haven't actually seen much activity as far as the taxi service is concerned," he said.
Problems arise when people begin to operate cabs without seeking a license from the city, Kessel said.
"Anybody who uses a cab service should ask that provider if they are licensed by the city," he said. "The reason is, one of the things that we make sure is that they are properly insured. So in the unfortunate event that there may be an accident or some other kind of loss is that the rider has a level of assurance."
North Dakota does not issue any special licenses for cab drivers beyond those required to operate a vehicle, but it does require the owner to register their business with the state. Any additional regulation is to be provided by the municipality where the cab is based.
"Our ordinance has served us well, but that doesn't preclude us from looking at it in the future to make things better," Kessel said.
Dickinson requires each vehicle to be licensed and to be insured as a taxicab. The city does not routinely complete background checks on cab drivers, but a clause in ordinance allows the city to investigate license applicants.
"If something was flagged in our cursory review, it's nice to have that available to use to do a more in-depth review," Kessel said.
Licenses are good for one year before renewal and can be revoked.
If feeling unsafe in a cab, take note of the license, make, model and color of the car and be aware of surroundings, Cianni said. Don't hesitate to call the police at 701-456-7759 or, if it escalates to a life-or-death situation, 911.
Patrick has two cabs in Dickinson and plans to add more to her fleet in the summer. While she does do longer trips to Bismarck and has even traveled to Fargo, a lot of her business comes from older people who want to go to the store.
"They like the meters -- we have meters -- if you're only going four blocks from your house to the store, it's going to be cheaper for you," she said.
Her taxicab service operates 24/7 and, while dial-a-ride service is available, it is not required. E-CABs can be hailed if their light is on.
"It is a real taxi," Patrick said with a chuckle. "We've had people do it, and then they're like 'I just did that to see if you'd stop.'"