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$1 Cabs Aim To Keep Streets Safer

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Pickup lines rarely get you anywhere. But one recently conceived solicitation aims to get you home safely without any ulterior motives.

“Who’s Picking You Up Tonight?” is the catchphrase for Santa Fe County DWI Program’s holiday campaign to reduce drinking and driving.

“You have a choice in Santa Fe if you go out drinking,” said Rachel O’Connor, Santa Fe County Health and Human Services Division director, during a news conference Monday. “We hope you choose to take a cab ride home.”

As part of the campaign, $1 cab rides will be offered on Friday and Saturday nights, courtesy of Capital City Cab.

“When you have a fleet of vehicles out there, you’re cognizant of drunk drivers on the road,” said Matt Knowles, president of the Capital City Cab, who has seen his share of them and even had a few crash into his cabs.

“I think being able to partner with the county DWI program is a win-win. The roads are safer for our drivers and we’re performing a key function by taking drunk drivers off the road,” he said.

Cab driver David Knowles, no relation to his boss, said he’s heard nothing but positive feedback from customers who have taken advantage of the $1 taxi rides in the past.

“Another thing I hear a lot, especially from tourists, is that they wish their city would provide this service,” he said.

The service is available anywhere in Santa Fe County, but for longer trips the passenger is responsible for paying the balance once the cab fare exceeds $25. In general, the $1 covers a ride within about a seven-mile radius of downtown, where about 85 percent of rides originate, according to Lupe Sanchez, DWI program coordinator.

The DWI program has offered discounted cab rides since 2007, but Sanchez said the particulars were modified July 1. The price was reduced from $5 for one person and $10 for two or more people to just $1 per passenger. To eliminate abuse, the rides now go just one way — from a bar, restaurant or house party to the passenger’s residence. The service is available only between 5:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

“The goal of the changes is to provide the most important ride, which is the ride home,” said Sanchez. To help get the word out, 10,000 coasters advertising the $1 cab rides were distributed to licensed liquor establishments. A thousand magnets and key tags carrying the same message were also printed for distribution at area events and DWI checkpoints.

In addition, advertisements have begun running on local radio stations and signs are posted at many area gas pumps and on the sides of two city buses.

Shelly Mann-Lev, of the Santa Fe Underage Drinking Prevention Alliance, said periodic compliance inspections, using trained actors, found that more than 75 percent of licensed liquor establishments are doing a good job of not selling to customers showing signs of intoxication.

“Unfortunately, that’s not good enough,” she said adding that 22 percent of package liquor stores and 19 percent of bars and restaurants still sold goods to apparently intoxicated individuals.

Several of the sellers were repeat offenders, and through feedback and education, Mann-Lev said they hope to reduce those numbers.

“We need commitment from management and clerks,” she said.

Santa Fe Police Capt. Aric Wheeler cited more statistics. He said already this year there have been more than 700 DWI arrests in Santa Fe County, 343 within city limits.

As evidence that the DWI program’s campaigns are working, Wheeler noted that alcohol-related crashes are down 6 percent.

“We’re starting to see a steady decline and we’re hopeful for further reduction. We’re trying to send a clear message of zero tolerance,” he said.

The news conference was held at Marble Brewery and Tap Room on East San Francisco Street overlooking the Plaza. General Manager Justin Svetnicka said Marble Brewery has a strict policy limiting the amount a customer can consume.

“Our goal is to never get somebody to the point of intoxication,” he said.

Should someone wander in who has evidently enjoyed libations elsewhere, he’ll find out whether that person is driving or is accompanied by a designated driver. If he sees fit, he won’t hesitate to call a cab.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback; people think it’s a great service,” he said of the cab ride program. “The fact this program exists makes my job, and our bartenders’ job, much easier.”

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