MANCHESTER — City officials cleared four taxis for return to the road on Wednesday, a day after every taxi in the city lost its medallion, which allowed it to operate on city streets.
The four were cleared for inspections after the two taxi companies repaired problems that could be quickly addressed — such as a suspension system, a tie rod or a cracked windshield — and had them inspected, said Kevin Kincaid, director of licensing enforcement for the Manchester City Clerk’s Office.
“Obviously, we want these cars back on the road as much as they do,” Kincaid said.
But other cars had problems with rust on the undercarriage and would need more time for repairs. Still other cars — those with more than nine years of life or 300,000 miles — won’t make it back on the road, he said.
Manchester Taxi Dispatch was able to return one car to the road Wednesday, Kincaid said. Bill Fellows, a consultant for the company owner, said he expects two will be ready to return to the road today.
He blamed the failures on a long winter. Winter is the busy season in the taxi business, and companies hold off on repairs until the spring, when people are more likely to walk and business slows. He said inspectors were doing their job, but were overzealous.
“There is nothing on any one of these cars that is something I would be afraid to put my wife or daughter in,” Fellows said. “None of them is dangerous.”
Some of the problems were as small as cracked lens covers of car lamps, a burned-out turn signal bulb, a tinted rear window and an ABS dash light that is stuck on.
Others involved a hanging exhaust clamp, a leaking exhaust manifold and a broken wheel stud, he said.
“These are issues we go through at the end of every winter,” he said. Fellows said he hopes to get the fleet of eight or nine cars back on the road by next Friday.
Queen City Taxi could not be reached for comment.
The city issues 18 to 19 medallions to the city’s two taxi companies, Kincaid said. Inspectors didn’t fail all the cabs on Tuesday. When owners realized what was happening, they surrendered the medallions for some cars voluntarily, rather than have the cars fail inspection, Kincaid said.
Meanwhile, customers at the Elm Street Market Basket had a difficult day.
“Our customers were very upset about it,” said Peter Gulezian, store manager. A friend would drop them off at the store, but after buying several bags of groceries, they were unable to call a taxi for a ride home, he said.
They got aggravated waiting for a bus, and Market Basket workers helped some customers load their grocery bags onto the bus, Gulezian said.
Dick Dunfey, executive director at Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said many of the agency’s elderly and disabled tenants use taxis, but he had not heard any complaints.
Alex Walker, spokesman for Catholic Medical Center, said the lack of taxi service did not seem to have an impact at the hospital Wednesday.
Kincaid said state inspectors were not available Wednesday to handle re-inspections. But the clerk’s office found a repair shop, Ron’s Toy Shop, to help return taxis to the road. Ron’s performed inspections — the same that any licensed automobile must go through — in order to get the cabs on the road.
By the end of the day, Queen City Taxi had three taxis on the road; Manchester Taxi had one.
Kincaid said Queen City brought two cars in that they had held back from inspection on Tuesday, and they passed. A third had a cracked windshield that was easily repaired.
Two Queen City cars had more than 300,000 miles and won’t return to the road, he said.
Manchester Taxi brought in a car that was not inspected because its gas tank was being replaced. Its front-end suspension was repaired, and it was cleared for use, Kincaid said.
Just last year, aldermen approved a 60 percent rate hike for fares. Still, a two-mile journey in Manchester costs $7.40, and the average fare in the city is between $4 and $5, Kincaid said.
He said a city police officer can order an inspection of a taxi at any point, but the city has not performed mass inspections for awhile, in part because of logistics associated with the move to the new police station.
“It’s no special, super-difficult testing,” Kincaid said. “It’s the same thing we all go through.”