City Hall

Still Angry CNG Cabs Get to Cut Line at Love Field, Indie Taxis Staying Home New Year's Eve

Back in March we were alerted to a cabbie strike out at Love Field Airport, when the members of the Association of Taxicab Operators protested the city's eventual vote that allowed compressed natural gas-powered taxis to hop to the front of the line at Love Field. The ATO eventually took their case against the city to federal court, where, at the end of August, District Judge Ed Kinkeade denied its petition for a temporary injunction.

At around the same time, the ATO filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against Yellow Cab. As you no doubt recall, the independent cabbies picketed City Hall in September, threatening to boycott the Super Bowl if the Love Field restrictions weren't lifted. But the case was eventually dismissed in October and taken over to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where court records show that last month, the justices yet again denied the ATO's request for a TRO.

And so, on New Year's Eve, most of the 2,000 cab drivers who are members of the Association of Taxicab Operators will stay home, their taxis parked in protest. Update: City Hall says there are 2,022 cabs total between the 13 companies licensed to operate in Dallas. And, according to city officials, there are 1,840 permitted cab drivers.

(Update at 2:48 p.m.: Mayor Tom Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, sends this statement in the mayor's absence:

New Year's Eve is clearly a night when demand is high and the waits a bitlonger than usual. However, the major cab operators -- which account for almost 90 percent of cab drivers in the city -- assure us they are aware of the boycott and are making every effort to meet demand so that Dallas customers get home safely.
Now back to the original item ...)

"Every driver has been waiting for this night to make $400, $500," Al-Fatih Ameen, the ATO's chairman, tells Unfair Park. "But what's the use of making that money in one night and not having a job the next? We apologize for the inconvenience, but we went to this extreme because we can't get any response from City Hall."

In a press release we received today, the ATO says it sent to Mayor Tom Leppert and the Dallas City Council a four-point plan intended to resolve the issue. Says the release:

The plan recommends eliminating the current city initiative that allows Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-powered cab to move to the head of the line at taxi queues. In its place, ATO recommends a staggered replacement schedule that will permit taxi operators to purchase any vehicle that meets aggressive pollution and efficiency guidelines. Vehicles in this category include diesel, bio-fuel, hybrid, fuel cell and electric.

ATO advocates clean energy and energy independence that needs not sacrifice values of fairness that are embodied in a first come first serve culture. ATO is currently challenging the City's head of the line initiative in court. The Four Point Plan is an attempt to avoid further litigation and to establish a cooperative working relationship with the City. Drivers at Dallas Love Field Airport are going out of business.

To bolster this cooperative working relationship, ATO has proposed that the City recognize the independent taxi operators as the City's goodwill ambassadors. In this capacity the independent taxi operators can help to create and reinforce the perception that Dallas is a visitor friendly city as well as international culture oriented due to 95 % naturalized US citizens taxi drivers in Dallas.
Mayor Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, says he's seen no such proposal. But, he says, "We have gotten a lot of letters from cab operators unhappy about" the city's clean-air measure that lets natural gas-powered cabs jump the line at the airport. Ameen says the proposal was "hand-delivered to the mayor and the city council -- I did it personally."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky