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New Ordinance Changes Vehicle-For-Hire Regulations, Including Horse-Drawn Carriages

City of San Antonio

Following a month-long summer break, the San Antonio City Council reconvened Thursday and quickly got down to business, passing a new vehicle-for-hire ordinance that takes effect in two weeks.

More than 40 citizens signed up to speak on a proposal to update the city’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance, which among other regulations would:

  • Require horses-puled carriages to rest 10 minutes between trips  no matter how long or short
  • Allow temporary use of commercial loading zones for taxicabs
  • Authorize cleaning fees for accidental spills in cabs
  • Change the type and age of a limo and buses that can be used

John Bouloubasis is the president of Yellow Cab and has been working hard to get an updated ordinance in place. He said the city needs new standards in place to accommodate the growth.
The issue became controversial over the horse-drawn carriages part of the ordinance. Dianna Blynn told the council that they are antiquated and should be abolished in San Antonio.

"The city does not need horse-drawn carriages and should move away from this method," she said. "San Antonio has a lot of charm, but unsanitary horse-drawn carriages are not among one of them."

People in the horse-drawn carriage industry like Noah Young argued their best interest is with the horses and their well-being.

"We see them as our companions and they do a great job and we value them for what they do," he said. "Some people will say, 'Well, you folks are in it for the money. It's a business. So you're going to do whatever it takes.' Well, let's approach that. Even if it is just a business decision, what we do with our horses, doesn't it make good business sense to take care of the assets?"

Young said opponents have not given any substantial evidence that would suggest the animals are being exploited.

"We haven't been shown any research or any studies that show that these horses that have been bred for hundreds of years are incapable of doing these jobs that they do so well," Young said.

For the horses, the ordinance will limit their work hours to eight and require them to stop working at temperatures over 95 degrees.

Ordinances in cities like Dallas, Memphis and Nashville require 99 to 100 degrees.

Mayor Julián Castro said the ordinance is an improvement over the previous version.

"I was not fond at all of the proposed changes that we had here a month ago."

Police Chief William McManus said inspectors on the street will enforce the regulations around downtown and will also go to the tables to look at work logs.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.