Minneapolis phone line welcomes cab complaints

Minneapolis taxi patrons can dial 311, a nonemergency city line, with ride complaints.

McKenna Ewen

Finance senior Brian Li had no idea his taxi ride to the airport would cost $50, but he said the driver felt justified in claiming a weighty tip on the $36 fare. The driver said he had no change, Li said, but Li had his doubts.

“When I talked with other friends that traveled to the same place, they only paid $26 or $27,” Li said. “It was a lot more expensive than it should have been.”

Although many Minneapolis residents share taxi complaints, they don’t often formally lodge them with the city. Minneapolis would like to change that by encouraging riders to dial 311 with complaints to improve service.

Passengers can report complaints by calling 311, a hot line for city information and nonemergency services, as a result of an amendment to the taxicab ordinance passed Friday.

The changes would require taxi companies to display a sign in the car reminding riders that they can call 311 with complaints in an easily viewable location inside the vehicle, along with the cab number.

“I was unaware of how to file a complaint,” Li said. “If I knew how to file a complaint, I probably would have.”

Minneapolis customers can also call the taxi company directly to file a complaint.

Rainbow Taxi manager Mark Shields said he receives one or two complaints per week, which he said is relatively low with as many as 50 drivers making up to 30 runs each day.

He said the majority of complaints are handled internally, depending on the seriousness of the issue. If the customer is still not satisfied or the complaint is severe, the problem is forwarded to the city.

“The city process can be pretty lengthy,” Shields said. “Depending on the type of complaint, it takes awhile. If you’ve got something minor, the company may be the way to go.”

In 2006, only 61 taxi complaints were filed with the city. Those in favor of making complaints easier to file through the city argue that simplification would result in increased taxi service.

Taxis will be held accountable to a higher standard with more people who know how to call in a complaint to 311, 7th Ward Councilwoman Lisa Goodman’s assistant Doug Kress said.

“We don’t hear about a lot of complaints,” he said. “People don’t know who to call. That’s why we really want to push for 311.”

But Minneapolis still has a ways to go to catch up with New York City, the taxi capital of the Western world. That city has taken steps toward improving taxi service by allowing passengers to submit complaints online.

English sophomore Elinor Belk said a taxi once stood her up, making her 20 minutes late to a swim team function. Belk said she wished she had filed a complaint.

“I feel like I have never had a really good experience with taxi driving,” she said.