Saturday, April 20, 2024

Taxis gather to pick up passengers in Harvard Square. Boston cab drivers are stealing fares, drivers say, just as the city is losing personnel that could help deal with the problem. (Photo: Lumierefl)

The city is going to a single taxi inspector from two at the end of the month, the License Commission confirmed Thursday. The move comes shortly after it was acknowledged that the commission’s chairman is on personal leave for an indeterminate time.

The departures — which are not seen as connected — worries operators of Cambridge’s 257 taxis, said Michael Gervais, a longtime taxi driver who alerted the City Council on Monday that the city’s “hackney industry is in chaos.”

Wondering what happens when the remaining inspector goes on vacation, as well as other concerns about how taxi issues will be handled with the loss of personnel, drivers are forming a leadership association, Gervais said. He hoped the as-yet unnamed group would unify drivers in what he called local “turmoil,” including all-too common incidents in which Boston taxis pick up fares in Cambridge, resulting in a resurgence in violence between drivers from the two cities. Fewer inspectors also means less diligence on keeping taxis safe and clean, and less ability to respond to consumer complaints.

Commission Chairman Richard V. Scali has missed recent meetings, Gervais said, and hadn’t been around to address such problems for a couple of months.

City officials can’t speak on personnel matters, including whether Scali’s personal leave is paid or unpaid, but have said the commission’s remaining two members — Police Commissioner Robert Haas and Fire Chief Gerald Reardon — can continue the panel’s work. Their next scheduled meeting is Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. Gervais said the city’s director of the Personnel Department, Michael Gardner, has been sitting in for Scali in his absence.

Similarly, taxi inspections and the addressing of drivers’ issues can go on with only one inspector, even if that inspector takes vacation, said the commission’s executive officer, Elizabeth Lint. “This is new,” she said of the staffing levels, but “there are other possibilities.”