There Will Be No Free Cab Rides In Williston North Dakota
As a fan of free markets and entrepreneurship, one of the real delights of the Bakken oil boom has been to watch all the new businesses flooding into the state to provide services in unique ways. One of the most intriguing was two women from Missouri who, in addition to providing a city-to-city shuttle service, were also providing free rides within the City of Williston to people who called and requested one (tips were welcome). This was a service they provided when they didn’t have a booking for their shuttle service.
Two weeks after their free service was covered in the Williston Herald, however, the ladies were ticketed for operating an unlicensed taxi service. They didn’t believe that they needed to be licensed (they are insured and carry commercial drivers licenses as well as the appropriate state registrations) to operate a taxi service because they weren’t taking fares, but they decided to register to provide taxi services anyway.
This required a $15 fee to the city as well as a vehicle inspection. They jumped through those hopes and, last night, their registration went before the city commission which denied the application stating no other reason other than (according to Malladi) “made a mockery” of the application process.
I interviewed Jennifer Malladi this morning about the denial, and needless to say she’s frustrated. I also attempted to interview someone from the City of Williston about the denial. I spoke with John Kautzman, Williston city auditor, and he immediately directed me to the city’s legal counsel upon hearing the subject of my inquiry. I spoke with the Furuseth Law Firm, and was told by the receptionist that they had “no comment.”
There is only one taxi service currently operating in the City of Williston – the Basin Cab Company – and they have four or five cabs, operating one or two of them at a time. As you might imagine given the oil boom and the boom in Williston’s population (both permanent and transient), there’s a shortage of cabs. Malladi said that other cab services aside from her and her friends’ companies have filed to operate in the city but that they, too, have been denied.
I wanted to confirm this claim with the City of Williston but, again, per their lawyer they’re not talking.
This seems like a trivial matter. Barring some evidence that these women are running an unsafe operation, why shouldn’t they receive a license? Is there an effort here to protect a taxi monopoly in Williston? I would hope not, but there seems to be no good reason why Malladi can’t get a taxi license, and city officials don’t seem to be willing to explain themselves.
With all the challenges western communities are facing as a result of the oil boom, can we really afford this sort of bureaucratic nonsense?Tags: bakken, bee line shuttle service, city of williston, jennifer malladi, North Dakota News, taxi, williston