North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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May 23, 1977

Subject:

Municipalities; Ordinances; Regulation of Taxi Cabs

Requested By:

Carl V. Venters City Attorney Jacksonville, North Carolina

Question:

May a municipality by ordinance declare it unlawful for noncity taxicabs to cruise within the city for the purpose of picking up fares or to pick up a fare within the city or within its extraterritorial jurisdiction upon request regardless of destination of fare?

Conclusion:

Cities may prohibit noncity taxicabs from cruising within its territorial jurisdiction for the purpose of picking up fares. It cannot, however, prohibit the discharge of a passenger by a taxicab picked up outside of its territorial jurisdiction or prohibit the pickup of a passenger within its territorial jurisdiction under prior contract or agreement.

G.S. 160A-304 provides that cities may by ordinance license and regulate all vehicles operated for hire in the city. "The ordinance may require that the drivers and operators of taxicabs engaged in the business of transportating passengers for hire over the public streets shall obtain a license or permit from the city."

The applicable sections of the motor vehicle laws read:

"§ 20-37. Limitations on issuance of licenses. -- There shall be no operator's or chauffeur's license issued within this State other than that provided for in this Article, nor shall there be any other examination required: Provided, however, that cities and towns shall have the power to license, regulate and control drivers and operators of taxicabs within the city or town limits and to regulate and control operators of taxicabs operating between the city or town to points, not incorporated, within a radius of five miles of said city or town."

"§ 20-87. Passenger vehicle registration fees. -

(3)
Contract Carrier and Exempt For-Hire Passenger Carrier Vehicles. -- . . . no license shall issue for the operation of any taxicab until the governing body of the city or town in which such taxicab is principally operated, if the principal operation is in a city or town, has issued a certificate showning
(a)
That the operator of such taxicab has provided liability insurance or other form of indemnity for injury to persons or damage to property resulting from the operation of such taxicab, in such amount as required by the city or town, and
(b)
That the convenience and necessity of the public requires the operation of such taxicab.

* * *

A taxicab shall be defined as any motor vehicle, seating nine or fewer passengers, operated upon any street or highway on call or demand, accepting or soliciting passengers indiscriminately for hire between such points along streets or highways as may be directed by the passenger or passengers so being transported, and shall not include motor vehicles or motor vehicle carriers as defined in G.S. 62-121.5 through 62-121.79. Such taxicab shall not be construed to be a common carrier nor its operator a public service corporation."

G.S.
20-97(a) provides that taxes collected under Chapter 20 are compensatory taxes for the use and privilege of the public highways of the State and prohibits any levy by counties or cities except for the levy of one dollar ($1.00) by cities upon any vehicle "resident therein" and a sum not to exceed fifteen dollars ($15.00) per year upon each vehicle operated in such city or town as a taxicab.
G.S.
20-97(b) provides that no "additional franchise tax, license tax, or other fee shall be imposed by the State against any franchise motor vehicle carrier taxed under this Article nor shall any county, city or town impose a franchise tax or other fee upon them, except that cities and towns may levy a license tax not in excess of fifteen dollars ($15.00) per year on each vehicle operated in such city as a taxicab as provided in subsection (a) hereof." (Emphasis supplied)
G.S.
20-113 is directed towards the protection of licenses:
"§ 20-113. Licenses protected. -- No person, partnership, association or corporation shall maintain an office or place of business in which or through which persons desiring transportation for themselves or their baggage are brought into contact by advertisement or otherwise with persons owning or operating motor vehicles and willing to transport other persons, or baggage, for compensation, or on a division of expense basis, for compensation, or on a division of expense basis, unless the owner or operator of such motor vehicles furnishing the transportation has qualified under the tax provisions of this Article for the class of service he holds himself out to perform."
G.S.
20-280 requires every person, firm or corporation engaging in the business or operating a taxicab or taxicabs within a municipality to file with the municipality proof of financial responsibility or with the board of county commissioners in the county of operation if without the corporation limits of a municipality.

Chapter 153A is silent as to the regulation of taxicabs. It would appear, however, that counties may regulate taxicabs under their general ordinance-making power (G.S. 153A-121).

G.S.
62-260(a)(2) exempts taxicabs from public utilities regulations if bona fide and not carrying more than nine passengers. This section, however, prohibits solicitation along regular routes of common carriers.
G.S.
18A-26(a) prohibits transportation of alcoholic beverages in for hire passenger vehicles as defined in G.S. 20-38(20)(b) (now G.S. 20-4.01(27)b), except when transporting a bona fide paying passenger who is the actual owner of the alcoholic beverage being transported.

These statutes must be considered in pari materia and when so considered and in the light of Harrelson v. Fayetteville, 271 N.C. 87, Airport Authority v. Stewart, 278 N.C. 227, and Smith v. Von Cannon, 283 N.C. 656, we conclude that a noncity cab receiving a fare or passenger without the territorial jurisdiction of a city may enter the city to discharge such passenger or may enter the city upon prior contract to receive a fare or passenger as an exercise of the right of the passenger to free egress and ingress to the city.

In Airport Authority v. Stewart, supra, the court said, quoting from Griswold v. Webb, 16 R.I.

649:

". . . A company cannot compel a passenger to take one of certain carriages, or none at all; nor impose unreasonable restrictions, which will amount to that. If a passenger orders a carriage to take him from the terminus, such carriage is pro hac vice, a private carriage . . ."

To require by ordinance that a citizen use only a taxicab franchised by the city to the exclusion of all others could well require that he use a taxicab he did not wish to use, or walk. This would deny the citizen his right to free and convenient egress and ingress from and to the city.

It would appear that though a city may grant franchise and by ordinance control taxicabs as to their mode of operation, it cannot prohibit a noncity taxicab from entering the city to discharge a fare paying passenger picked up outside the city or to enter and pick up a fare paying passenger pursuant to an actual, previously made contract or a previously received request for such service.

We do not say or intend to say that the city may not regulate and control drivers and operators of taxicabs pursuant to G.S. 20-37, supra.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William W. Melvin Deputy Attorney General