|OTT Taxi Sets Up Livery Service in Williamstown
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:08PM / Wednesday, January 24, 2024
|OTT has found a new home in Williamstown after being ordered to cease operations in North Adams for lack of an address.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — OTT Taxi has a new home.
But it will not be getting a new name, even though the owner says it is not actually a taxi service.
"We're running a livery service right now," John Lord said on Tuesday morning. "We do scheduled time calls."
Last week, "On Time Taxi" announced via Facebook that it again was open for business after the city of North Adams ordered it to "cease operations
" over the lack of a physical location at which it could operate under a permit issued by the city.
On Friday, The Berkshire Eagle reported that OTT's new office is 311 Main St. in Williamstown, a building principally known as the home of Harsch Associates Real Estate.
Lord said Tuesday that 80 percent of OTT's business is scheduled rides to locations like train stations or airports and/or for institutions like Williams College, Berkshire Medical Center, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the Brien Center or the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
"If anyone else calls in, it has to be for scheduled pickups," Lord said. "At some point, it will possibly be moved over to where I have a taxi and livery, but I don't see the need for it."
The main distinction in Massachusetts General Law between taxi and livery services appears to turn on the question of whether passenger pickups are scheduled.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles code defines a livery as, "Any limousine or other vehicle which is designed to carry fifteen or fewer passengers, including the driver, and carries passengers for hire, business courtesy, employee shuttle, customer shuttle, charter, or other pre-arranged transportation, and which vehicle is not required to obtain a taxicab license pursuant to M.G.L. c. 40, s22," according to the state's website.
That distinction explains why OTT does not need to apply for a license with the Williamstown Select Board, as specified in Chapter 125 of the Town Code. That chapter lays out a series of regulations for taxicabs but is silent on livery services.
Town Manager Robert Menicocci confirmed on Tuesday that the town considers OTT Taxi a livery service. Its business office use at the 311 Main St. property is allowed by right in the town's Planned Business zoning district.
Lord said the Williamstown office is used by four employees, including dispatchers. OTT's cars generally go home with the drivers during off hours, he said.
"That kind of eliminates any parking issues," Lord said.
In an email on Thursday, building owner Paul Harsch said the office was leased for use by no more than two people at a time and that no livery vehicles "will ever be parked at 311 Main St." No drivers will be using the Williamstown office or location, he said.
On Tuesday, he said North Adams was throwing up obstacles to prevent his business from continuing to operate there.
"I'm fifth-generation North Adams, but you will struggle to do business here," Lord said. "So when at the old location, the rent was raised quite a bit, I looked for a new location. I spent three months of searching and looked at 14 locations that were zoned for commercial use and are still for rent here in North Adams. But they didn't meet specifications for [Zoning Officer William Meranti] or [interim Police Chief Mark Bailey], and then the mayor had a say and a vote of the City Council.
"I just agreed to disagree because it seemed like some were on board and some weren't."
When Bailey issued a cease operating order on Dec. 18 — an order he confirmed on Tuesday is still in effect — Lord said he needed to find a new home for the business in order to continue service with some of the larger institutional clients on which OTT Taxi relies.
"Waiting for the city to figure out if a location is suitable as they see it, I don't have the time or patience to deal with that kind of nonsense," Lord said.
He also Tuesday complained about the city dragging its feet on police background checks of prospective drivers. Those background checks also would be necessary under the Town Code in Williamstown if OTT Taxi was a taxicab company and not the livery service that Lord says it is.
As of Tuesday afternoon, OTT Taxi still was identified as a "taxi service" on Facebook. There is a website, ott.taxi
, that identifies it as a "reliable cab service" that accepts "ALL WALK-INS," and lists a River Street address in North Adams. And the Facebook page has two profile photos of vehicles with the name "O.T.T. Taxi" emblazoned on the side.
On the other hand, Lord notes, the company's vehicles have license plates identifying them as livery cars.
"The name is OTT Taxi LLC, that's how I started it," Lord said. "Livery will be a runoff of it. The cars do not say 'taxi.' They're livery. They have livery plates."