You couldn’t blame Matt Rand, a 19-year-old college student who summers on Peaks Island, for thinking that a City Council majority has reversed the ancient saying and put the rear end of its horse before his cart.

The equine anatomy image is metaphorical, but Rand’s golf cart has been a very real pain in the nether regions to his competition on Peaks, and that’s what this tempest-in-a-taxi-service is all about.

Rand, who will soon begin his sophomore year at Tufts, has been offering people rides on his cart around the island, not charging fares but accepting tips in any amount his passengers want to offer.

That effort, however, put him in direct competition with a nonprofit but city-licensed taxi service, the Peaks Island Transportation System, that carries passengers in a van purchased with $20,000 in city money. The service, which has volunteer drivers, used to charge $5 per trip, but too many balked at the price, so now the fee is voluntary, too. Drivers can keep a portion of the revenue, with the rest defraying expenses.

The taxi service operators complained to the city that Rand’s informal cart service was cutting into their summertime profits, making it harder to get through the winter, when customer numbers decline.

So the council voted to require that any cart service driver must carry liability insurance for passengers and acquire a taxi driver’s license, even if the sole income came from tips.

The requirement, which takes effect in 30 days, won’t affect Rand because he will be back in school by then. But he’s upset that a service subsidized by the city has used its clout to put him out of business.

On the other hand, few college students spend their summer vacations getting as much of an education in how politics works.

 


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