by Susan Cohen
Start getting your weekend designated driver plans in order. Although you may think you can rely on a cab, if Charleston’s taxi drivers go on strike like some are planning to one mystery night soon, you might be out of luck.
Last week, The Post and Courier published an article about local taxi drivers and flat rate fees. For rides on the Charleston peninsula, cabs are required to charge a $5 flat rate instead of using the meter. When a woman realized her driver was doing the opposite, she called the cops. Apparently, it’s a common occurrence. There’s also a lot of debate about the flat-rate fee; it may be profitable when someone’s only going a few blocks, but it might not be cost effective if it’s from one end of the peninsula to the other.
Charleston taxi driver David Barnes felt insulted when he read the story. He won’t tell us which company he works for, but he’s one of the organizers (along with driver Sheila Seagers) of the “One Night Strike” that is currently being planned.
“There’s all kinds of confusion going on,” Barnes says. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to simplify it. We’re going to shut it down for a night.”
In a statement sent to the City Paper, Barnes writes that on an upcoming Friday or Saturday night, taxi drivers from all local companies hope to shut down King Street. They will give zero notice — although they will notify the Charleston Police Department — as they take up as many parking spaces on the strip as they can and sit for the night. They will not be giving rides. They’re going to “occupy” King Street.
After the strike, Barnes hopes taxi companies will meet with city and state regulative authorities and work out what they think is a fair plan for flat-rate fees. If that’s not possible, they’ll strike again.
“We’re a part of Charleston. We’re as much a part of Charleston as Charleston Place Hotel, the Francis Marion, aren’t we?” Barnes says. “It sounds like a mess that can be avoided. Nobody wants a war, but $5 flat rates, come on.”
Still, not all of Charleston’s taxi drivers may be joining in on Barnes' strike. Jim Jones, president of Charleston Cab Company, didn’t even know about the One Night Strike plan until he got a call from the City Paper. Jones is a proponent of the $5 flat rate, which he thinks is reasonable. He says his drivers will not be participating in Barnes’ plan.
“The rule is $5 and we are going to honor that,” he says. “If they’re striking they’re striking for the right to gouge people.”
So it looks like you might be able to find a ride after all.