The agency that regulates taxis in Hillsborough County has taken on the right cause lately by cracking down on unlicensed cabs. But it also needs to start cleaning up the abysmal taxis that are legally operating on the road.
The sorry picture of taxicab service was brought to light this week by hotel developer Lou Plasencia, who went off during a trade association meeting in Tampa on the "pigsty" conditions of local cabs. As the head of a local firm that develops hotels across America, Plasencia is a frequent flyer who has used taxis across the country. Those in Tampa, he said, are "deplorable" — too many dirty vehicles driven by poorly dressed drivers who don't know where they're going.
Sweeping generalizations are usually trouble, but complaints over taxicabs in Hillsborough are nothing new. Taxis can be slow to respond — if they respond at all. Drivers are often unkempt and rude, glued to their phones and clueless or worse about the best way to get around the city. And taxis in the Tampa market are not cheap. Plasencia spoke for many in voicing this long-held frustration.
Tampa has just opened two new downtown hotels. Tampa International is landing new overseas flights. The city has spent millions of tax dollars in recent years on new parks and cultural facilities. Yet the first impression many visitors have is when they step into a taxi. It should be a pleasant experience for tourists and residents alike.