City addressing fees and regulation of all for-profit vehicles

If you have ever driven an automobile through St Augustine during the past ten or twelve years, you know the frustration of non-standard, for-profit vehicles adding to congestion and menacing moving targets like pedestrians, bicyclists, and other automobiles.

Through permits and medallions, there have always been controls on horse-drawn carriages, trailer-trains and trolleys that have allowed the city to limit how many vehicles were on the road at any time. Thereby the city, at least partially, controls the load on and recovers the maintenance costs of city streets and right-of-way used by the commercial sightseeing operators.

It is unfortunate that the lust for profit has driven some opportunists in recent years to test the wording of the city’s regulations on sightseeing vehicles by introducing every imaginable mode of transportation not specifically contemplated in the wording of our current ordinance.

Whether it’s an electric golf cart that slips through a regulatory loophole based on the number of passengers who can sit down, or a one-man rickshaw who uses no motorization at all, or a pedicab, or individually operated Segway, there seems to be as many conveyances using our city streets to make money as there are clever cheaters who think they’ve figured out the foolproof way to elude the city’s franchise fees.

That may be coming to an end — or at least bring us closer to an ordinance that will force payment of a fair share from all commercial users.

At last night’s meeting, the city commission heard from Terry Shaw, associate vice president for study consultant HNTB who was hired earlier this year after the commission asked for analysis related to tour operators and other roadway users. It is contemplated that the study will produce policies and regulations for the commission to consider.

The study will investigate questions such as, “How can regulation, licensing, permitting and franchises be used to reduce the time vehicles-for-hire spend on the roadway?” and “What is the impact of vehicles-for-hire on roadway conditions and can a fair share model be prepared to allocate these costs?”

The final report is expected within the first half of 2017.

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