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City council makes way for Uber and Lyft to open in Carbondale

Carbondale City Hall (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Carbondale City Hall (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Olivia Spiers

The city council on Tuesday lifted municipal restrictions and added new designations to operate individual fare-based vehicles, paving the way for transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to open in Carbondale.

The law previously required taxicabs to apply for special company licenses that vetted companies for auto insurance and scheduled regular mechanical inspections with a city-owned garage. The changes favor companies that rely on ride-share applications and hire individual drivers to find passengers.

The new regulations also allow drivers to seek annual inspections and repairs through ASE-certified mechanics rather than only receive services through the city’s garage, in hopes of generating local business, City Manager Gary Williams said.

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Mayor John Henry said he listened to several parents of SIU students complain over the years about the safety and cleanliness of the city’s two taxicab services, Ace Taxi and Yellow Cab.

“Many passengers said the cab drivers will just pick up other people while they’re in the car,” Henry said. “We obviously need safer service.”

Carbondale resident Judy Carter advocated for the services during the public comments portion of the meeting, saying she feels unsafe driving in the city after dark. She also said many of her friends are leaving the city for communities with better public transportation.

“It’s a shame to see it happen,” Carter said. “But this will hopefully fix it.”

In other city council news:

Sidetracks Bar & Grill demolition

The city purchased the property located at 101 W. College Street for $45,000 where the old Sidetracks Bar & Grill still stands.

The business opened a new location at 610 S. Illinois Ave. in January but has kept both bars open during the transition. The older bar is slated to be demolished.

The acquisition will be used to extend an existing municipal lot that provides 48 parking spaces with new pay-by-space machines in preparation for the 2017 solar eclipse. The city expects 50,000 visitors to attend the event.

The project will yield 35 additional parking spaces.

New branding

The council approved a $49,000 contract with a marketing firm in Nashville, Tenn.

The contract the council approved allocates the money to North Star Destination Strategies for a rebranding plan. The city manager said the move was meant to encourage “progressive economic development, tourism, arts and entertainment.”

The plan includes a North Star survey of the Carbondale community and the surrounding areas to “get an idea of what everyone thinks about the city,” the city’s mayor said.

The branding is expected to be completed by September 2019, according to estimates provided by the company.

K-9 recruitment

The council authorized a $19,410 purchase of a replacement police K-9 Unit as the Carbondale Police Department’s eight-year-old dog, Ciko, retires.

The funds cover the selection and training of a new dog at the Vohne Kennels in Denver, Ind.

Officer Jake Lustig handles the department’s three dual-purpose narcotic detector dog teams, which were established in 1994. Lusting has requested to assist in the training process at Vohne Kennels.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Path

The council approved $90,000 for the continuation of its Bicycle Master Plan to make Carbondale more bike-friendly.

A new bicycle path will be constructed from south of Mill Street to the SIU Recreation Center on Grand Avenue. The path will also extend east from Washington Street to Park Street, merging into the completed path that is parallel to Highway 51.

The project will also provide LED lighting and bicycle racks on the paths. Construction is expected to start May 2017.

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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