In one of the last items of business in a City Commission meeting that went on until 10:00 p.m. last night, St Augustine City Attorney Ron Brown addressed “concerns” that entrepreneurs offering small-scale tour services are intruding on the domains of larger regulated competitors.
Under current City code, franchise and regulation of transportation services that use the city streets and drop off locations do not apply to tour operators and alternative transportation methods — unless they carry nine or more passengers.
“Trolleys, trains, carriages, and taxis are all regulated; and we inspect before we issue medallions and licenses for them to operate,” Brown said.
Now on the city’s radar screen is what Brown called, “the sub-9’s” — referring to battery powered transportation like Segway and seven-passenger carts, as well as human-powered “pedi-carts”; a rickshaw, of sorts, converted from a three-wheel bicycle. “We’ve had complaints from other tour operators that these unregulated businesses are using the drop off points that were set aside for them,” Brown said.
Certainly capable of transporting more than 9 passengers, Brown said that it has been brought to his attention that full-sized tour buses, the size of Greyhound buses, are also making their way through the congested, narrow City streets — with slows, and stops, as their un-licensed tour guides offer their un-regulated account of the history of our city.
Commissioner Bill Leary voiced his opinion that, even though there is no comparison of impact on street usage between a Segway or modified bicycle and a sightseeing train, if the smaller operator wanted to compete with the city’s franchisees, they should be held to the same level of regulation.
Without a clear signal in support or opposition yet, but with a view towards options employed in other cities such as Savannah or Charleston, the Mayor instructed the City Attorney to gather information to be presented at the next meeting. No vote was taken to regulate, leave unregulated, or to identify other modes of transportation that should be regulated, however, Leary clearly supports added regulation.