Judging from Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen’s description, the Market Street area is a hectic spectacle when the bars close at 2 a.m. People, many of them impaired by alcohol, race into the street and shout to hail cabs that have been circling the area in wait.
While it’s commendable that they are not driving after a night of revelry, there are several problems with this picture. Competing for cabs can create conflict. Running into the street can be dangerous. Shouting can disturb people trying to sleep nearby. And cruising for customers can cost cabs money and produce excess emissions.
So the chief has come up with a simple idea that could make a big difference: taxi stands.
He would establish three places in the Market area where cabs could line up and get passengers on a first-come, first-served basis. No competition.
No need for people to run into the street and shout. No need for cabs to cruise.
It won’t make Market Street less of a party destination, but it might just keep people safe.
Some will remember Market Street from its previous life when crime was more of a threat than catching a cab.
So while there is plenty of need for caution to ensure that it doesn’t become another Bourbon Street, the Market has been part of a dramatic improvement in that neighborhood. Restaurants, shops, hotels and, yes, bars draw people who would never have ventured to the old Market.
City Council will be asked to approve a one-year trial. Between 12:30 and 3 a.m. Friday through Sunday, the only place taxis would be able to pick up fares is at one of the three stands. Violating the law would cost $262.
Some cabbies would likely chafe at having new restrictions placed on them. Weekend nights are a big part of their business, and they’d like to keep it that way.
But it’s certainly worth trying the taxi stand plan for a year and then re-examining it in the context of business as well as safety and noise.
As Charleston’s hospitality industry grows and expands, it will inevitably cause problems. Just recently, the chief recommended a plan whereby bar owners would be required to monitor the area outside their establishments to keep it orderly. The jury is still out on that idea.
But the city is being responsible in looking for ways to keep hot spots from getting out of hand, to the detriment of taxpaying locals and economy-stoking visitors.