NEW ORLEANS - New taxi regulations have sparked protests throughout New Orleans over the last few months. And now, some drivers say the reforms are taking them off the streets. Some cabbies say there aren't enough installation companies to bring their vehicles into compliance.
Saidabror Siddikov is having a hard time feeding his family this month. The New Orleans cab driver has been off the streets while he struggles to comply with new city regulations.
"It's tough. I'm 35 year old," said Siddikov. "I [am not] used to [being] without money."
There's such a backlog to install necessary equipment, Siddikov's inspection sticker expired before he could do so. When he finally got the new gadgets, his new meter failed state inspection.
"They messed up the wiring in my car," said Siddikov, noting the number of taxis the shop is working on may be contributing to any mistakes.
Now, Siddikov's only source of income remains in the shop.
"They said, 'We have so many people, you have to wait, leave it at the shop and whenever we get to it, we'll do it,'" said Siddikov.
Cab drivers said Ellis Taxi Meter and Sign in Mid-City is the only business in the city of New Orleans currently equipped and available to install new meters for any cab company. The owner said he's installed over a hundred so far, but there are hundreds more to go.
According to the city of New Orleans, there are at least three other local installers. But the owners of several cab companies said one of them, New Orleans Elite Meter Shop, prioritizes meter installation for certain cab companies only, leaving others in the dust. Our attempts to contact the company have not been successful.
Another meter shop in Kenner is just finishing the process of getting equipped and trained to install new equipment.
And the owner of Mid-City Automotive said it will be several more weeks before equipment will arrive and technicians are trained to install it. Chris Fraino decided last month he would get into the meter installation business to help fill the need.
"I already have a waiting list inside, about 21 different people," said Fraino, who owns Mid-City Automotive, and a number of United Cabs.
With the deadline for cabs to have new meters, cameras, and credit card machines less than three months away, Fraino said his three technicians will work 12 hours a day, six days a week to make sure as many cabs as possible are up to speed.
"It's next to impossible to meet the deadline, because there's over 1200 or 1400 cabs that haven't had the equipment put in yet," said Fraino.
Meanwhile, Fraino, is paying the note on dozens of new vehicles that can't yet hit the streets because they don't have the necessary gear.
And Siddikov is hoping his cab gets in compliance soon, as he hopes for some relief.
The city said about 300 cabs are in compliance so far.