Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Seattle Commuters Warned Over Illegal Town Car Cabs

Step off a ferry at Colman Dock and you'll see them. A fleet of shiny Lincoln Town Cars parked under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with drivers offering a ride for "the same price as a taxi."

The stylish and luxurious sedan might sound like the better deal. But be warned that the chauffeur isn't always who you'd expect behind the wheel of a fancy private car.

In one case, a registered sex offender was caught illegally picking up customers in a licensed town car near Colman Dock. At Seattle-Tacoma Airport, a woman was held against her will by a chauffeur pretending to work for the company hired to drive her, apparently to steal business from a competitor, according to state records.

Many more are unlicensed or uninsured, putting customers at greater risk if there is a collision, according to city officials and records kept by the state and Port of Seattle. Illegal town cars have been a problem in Seattle and elsewhere for years, but the behavior seems more audacious than in the past, city officials and legitimate businesses say. The problem is prompting some to question whether changes are needed in the law governing limousines and executive sedans.

The sleek sedans are increasingly visible on city streets, especially around downtown hotels, the bus station and Sea-Tac Airport. Known as executive sedans, the cars are smaller than limousines and cater to corporate clients, hotel guests and teenagers attending proms.

Of the 490 executive sedans licensed in Washington, most are in King County.

Vanessa Arellano Doctor

No comments: