Taxi stand coming to downtown

Getting a taxi on Crown Street could get a whole lot easier.
Getting a taxi on Crown Street could get a whole lot easier. Photo by YDN.

City officials are looking to establish a reliable transportation option for patrons of the city’s nightclubs.

Winfield Davis, the deputy director of public space for New Haven’s Town Green Special Services District — the independent special taxing district authorized by the city and the state — announced Tuesday that the city is planning to set up a taxi stand on Crown Street between College and Temple streets from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday. Davis said he hopes to announce the exact location and operating times in the next several days, after he receives the approval he needs from city officials. Though some hailed the initiative as a savvy economic move for taxis and downtown businesses and a solution to nightlife security issues, others expressed doubt that the stand will have a significant effect on downtown taxi patterns.

“We think it’s a great idea from our perspective,” New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said. “Any way to get people who might be intoxicated out of their own cars and safely to their destination is a great benefit to all.”

Davis offered two main rationales for the taxi stand. It will ease the chronic traffic congestion downtown at night, he said, as most cabs circle around the district, often blocking entire lanes or double-parking on Crown Street. Knowing they have access to a taxi stand would encourage people to make smart decisions about whether or not they should drive to bars or clubs, he said. According to the Town Green District’s Nightlife Committee — composed of police, bar and club owners and city staff members — finding a cab past 10 p.m. is difficult even on Thursday nights because on average 5,000 to 6,000 people come into the downtown area on weekend nights.

Hartman said there have been taxi stands downtown in the past. Though most were eventually discontinued, at one point there were taxi stands in front of the Omni Hotel, Phelps Gate and at the intersection of Temple and College streets. One stand remains at the intersection of Chapel and College streets. The city discontinued these taxi stands because few cabs came to the allotted space, he said, and many bar and club owners were frustrated by the fact that the large stretches of the street reserved for the stands were not being used for parking. But, he said, the fact that the proposed taxi stand will have time parameters will prevent this outcome.

Many downtown bars, clubs and restaurants support the proposed new taxi stand.

Keith Davis, a bartender at Wicked Wolf Tavern on Temple Street, said the area around Temple and Crown streets attracts the greatest number of clubgoers, including tourists from Manhattan or college students from nearby Quinnipiac University. College students are the most prone to intoxication, and transportation is often the crucial variable in their decision to travel to New Haven, he said, adding that the taxi stand will help create a sense of collective security because large crowds will congregate around the stand late at night.

“When I get out of work at 1:15 in the morning, there are people who literally put knives at [my] neck for my money,” he said. “You’re much safer in bigger numbers, and you know that’s the spot you can go to.”

Representatives of several New Haven taxi companies also expressed optimism about the plan’s success.

Jerry Walthall, the owner of New Haven-based Heritage Taxi, said he was in favor of the taxi stand because it will make it easier for drivers to locate customers in an increasingly competitive taxi industry. Walthall said there are currently 16 New Haven taxi firms of varying sizes, up from four in 1986, and the recession has decreased demand for taxis.

“From the taxi industry’s standpoint, the taxi stand will definitely help because demand has fallen drastically,” said Andrew Osumah, a driver for Metro Taxi. “Nine p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights is definitely the busiest [time], and it’s good that we’ll know where to go.”

Still, the stand will not be effective if taxi drivers do not frequent it, Hartman said. For the stand to become “the norm” for drivers, he said, its organizers need to spread the word.

Davis said he plans to publicizing the hours of operation and the location of the taxi stand after its approval by encouraging bar owners and club owners to advertise it in their establishments.

The proposal for a new taxi stand downtown has been on the Nightlife Committee’s agenda for nearly a year, Davis said.

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