Last year at this time, Worthington had two licensed taxicabs. Now it has 40.

Last year at this time, Worthington had two licensed taxicabs. Now it has 40.

City officials do not understand why a suburb of 14,000 residents would suddenly attract so many taxi drivers, or if the city ordinance that regulates taxi licenses should be scrapped or strengthened.

"There is something going on here that I'm not understanding," Worthington City Council member Dave Foust said during the Dec. 8 council meeting, when council decided not to repeal the city's ordinance regulating cabs.

Last week, it did extend the expiration date of taxi licenses from Dec. 31, 2008, to March 31, 2009. Without that ordinance, the staff at city hall would possibly have been inundated with the paperwork as the newly licensed cabbies sought to renew their licenses.

Before the March deadline, city staff plans to delve more deeply into the taxi license issue to get a better understanding of its economic and political ramifications.

Assistant city manager Robyn Stewart said last Friday that she still doesn't understand the reason for the glut of license applications the city received during the last two months of the year, when 40 licenses were issued.

To receive a cab license in Worthington, a driver must pay $10 and show proof of insurance. The ordinance has been on the books since the 1960s.

In Columbus, the price is $150 per year, and only 500 are available. Licenses are selling for $60,000 each on the private market, according to a former cab driver who spoke at the Dec. 8 council meeting.

Columbus also requires background checks on drivers and inspections of cabs.

Hakim Shirwa reportedly started the rush to drive cabs in Worthington when he recently purchased his own cab and opened Worthington Red Cab.

He used to work for Blue Cab in Columbus, but had a hard time making a living after paying his employer $250 a week.

Now nine cabs work out of Worthington Red Cab, which he said is a good place to do business because of the city's two hotels and many restaurants and bars.

He told council that he would like to see more stringent licensing regulations in Worthington and believes the license fee should be increased.

Tighter regulations are better for the industry and offer protection for customers, he said.

Council member Bonnie Michael said she was not sure that Worthington should repeal its licensing requirements and might want to add background checks on drivers.