Taxicab drivers can now require upfront fares from some customers under an ordinance passed unanimously by the City Council at its Tuesday night meeting.
"At bar time, if someone's almost passed out when they get in, forget about getting the fare," said cabdriver Andre Balaguta, who's been a Madison Taxi driver for two years. "What am I going to do, get out of the cab and run after them?"
He said the problem is somewhat rare but still vexing for city cabbies, especially for late-night fares home from taverns.
The new ordinance will allow drivers to ask for prepayment under certain circumstances, including out-of-town destinations, intoxicated passengers and those who have a history of not paying or change destination en route.
Previously, cab companies could ask for prepayment between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. if they required all customers to pay it.
Union Cab marketing manager John McNamara said discussions about changing the prepay rules began a few years ago after Madison police stopped responding to calls for unpaid fares and asked drivers to use the city's self-reporting system.
"We surveyed our drivers and really thought about when are the most likely situations happening where someone doesn't have payment," McNamara told the State Journal in July.