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Fargo seeks to revise taxi ordinance, open opportunity for small business owners

A new draft of the vehicle for hire ordinance will be presented to the Fargo City Commission for review and comment on Sept. 19. Changes would give drivers more opportunities for entrepreneurship

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A line of licensed taxis forms at Hector International Airport in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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FARGO — Since learning its current taxi ordinance was outdated in 2019, Fargo City Auditor Steve Sprague has been working with representatives of the transportation industry to work on a revised taxi ordinance.

Those efforts were put on pause when COVID-19 hit, according to Sprague.

Such work has resumed, however, after the Fargo City Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 6, unanimously passed a motion that directs the city attorney to make ordinance changes regarding vehicles for hire.

Existing ordinances require vehicle for hire businesses to maintain a three-vehicle minimum to operate, in addition to requiring the businesses to provide 24/7 service.

Suggested changes would eliminate that requirement, allowing the vehicle for hire industry to become more welcoming to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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“My sense is we should allow as many people as we can to grow their own businesses,” Commissioner John Strand said.

Ordinance changes would not affect businesses like Uber and Lyft, which lobbied the state legislature extensively so that they would not have local regulations or registrations limiting their operations, according to Sprague.

A change in the current ordinance would allow for more freedom among drivers of popular vehicle for hire businesses.

“There are people who have driven for Uber and Lyft who want to go out on their own, and they don’t want to give that 30% (of their earnings) that Uber and Lyft take right off the top,” Sprague said.

The ordinance change seeks to limit the city’s involvement in the way businesses are run, and instead focus solely on providing safe options for the traveling public.

Safety measures include making sure vehicles are properly inspected, official identifying signage is displayed, background checks are completed on drivers and up-to-date insurance is held.

Liability insurance adjustments, along with the type of background checks required were among the final proposed changes to the ordinance, which will seek feedback from the Commission once changes are available for review.

Nancy Morris, city attorney, will present the ordinance revisions at the next commission meeting on Monday, Sept. 19.

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