Stranded: Fare or Not

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Finding a quick cab ride on a Friday night in downtown Baton Rouge is a scenario that many say is no easy task.

"You're never going to just walk outside like in any other metropolitan city and pick up a cab," said Baton Rouge resident Ellen Ballard.

Ballard and Dale Mitchell love to enjoy a night out downtown but say relying on cabs to get back and forth ends up being much more of a hassle than it's worth.

"We live two miles from here and we had to wait an hour for him to pick us up. We told him in two hours we will be calling you back and still had to wait 45 minutes for him to come back," added Ballard.

Ryan Fairman has been a manager at Lucy's Surfside bar and Restaurant on Third Street for over three years. He says cab availability has certainly gotten better over the years but he'd like to see it improve even more.

"You can call these guys but somebody could be across town and I don't know if there's necessarily enough cabs dedicated to strictly what we've got going on down here," said Fairman.

Compared to other cities, Baton Rouge's cab situation is worth noting. As of January 1, there were 127 licensed cabs in Metro Baton Rouge and the city has a population over 220,000.

In Charleston, South Carolina there are over 120,000 people within city limits and there are 406 licensed cabs.

"Baton Rouge is kind of spread out compared to most cities of its size,"

Yundra Hooper has been a cab driver here for seven years. Hooper like most drivers, is basically an independent contractor, who leases his vehicle from companies like Yellow Cab. As a result, he says drivers must approach it as a business, and not simply a job. That makes busy stretches like closing time on a Friday night a less than ideal period to work.

"A lot of people make the approach that we need more cabs in Baton Rouge but not necessarily because that short period of time is not feasible enough to have a bunch more cabs on the street and they're not going to make enough money," said Hooper.

Members of Baton Rouge's Taxi Cab Control Board chose not to answer questions on camera. They did explain to us the city's primary function is to make sure licensing requirements are met by cab drivers. The board does not address issues like when and where the cabs operate and the oversight can mean a long wait.

"If someone knows that their night is going to be extended by 30 minutes to an hour, then yeah that is going to play into their decision to call a cab or not," said LSU law student Brad Cramner.

Many are choosing not to. Over the last two months, the Baton Rouge Police Department conducted five checkpoints and made 23 arrests for driving under the influence. A trend that Fairman believes could be reduced, if more cabs were on the roads during peak bar hours.

"If that's the direction we want to go then somehow we would like to see a lot more cabs down here so there is that option and it's readily available for you so you can come out and enjoy yourself and at the end of the day you will have a safe ride home," said Fairman.

Hooper would argue safe rides are always available but it's up to patrons to establish relationships with drivers. As for a day when cabs will roll up on a moment's notice?

"I don't know if it's ever going to get that way. I would love for it to get that way but it's not likely, I don't think it's likely," added Hooper.

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