When you stumble out of a downtown bar next weekend, you may stumble right into a waiting taxi.
Over the Dec. 16 weekend the Eugene Police Department began a program that sets up two taxi staging areas downtown in an attempt to cut down on drunk driving and increase public safety.
The taxis are available on Friday and Saturday nights at the corner of 8th and Olive and by the Eugene Public Library on 10th and Olive.
Eugene Police Sgt. Julie Smith says, “We’re hoping to reduce crime and assaults and impaired drivers and increase safety.”
Before the staging areas were established, “many people would stand in the street waiting for their taxis, which caused unsafe conditions for them and drivers,” Smith says.
EPD hopes the option of taxis will prevent drunk driving and the random fights that often happen when bar patrons hit the streets after last call, Smith says. “If people know they’re going to get a taxi in five minutes walking instead of waiting 45 minutes they’ll make better decisions, and it’s safer for everyone.”
Smith says the new taxi staging areas won’t require many additional police resources. “It’s what we’d be doing in our job anyway.”
The only resources needed are for putting the signs up for the taxi areas and taking them down. Smith says it will take “less than 10 minutes to do that.” She also says that security guards downtown would be directing bar patrons to the staging areas. “I think it will flow smoothly.”
The police will continue normal patrols, but inform downtown bar patrons of the taxi option, Smith says. The new taxi areas should help manage traffic and prevent accidents by keeping taxis clear of intersections, she says.
On its first weekend the staging areas were not used very much, says Kelly Putnam, public safety program manager with EPD. “I think it was the weather and the ice storm — there just wasn’t a lot of foot traffic downtown. The bars were like ghost towns from what I’m told, so this isn’t the best weekend to evaluate how it worked,” Putnam says. “New Year’s is going to give us a real indication of how it’s working.”