The taxi lobby, it seems, will not go quietly. Hot on the heels of Matthew’s report that the taxi unions successfully lobbied the Los Angeles City Council to block ride sharing services at LAX, tax drivers in Dallas filed suit against the DFW Airport Board in state district court, asking it to block new rules that allowed Uber and Lyft to operate from DFW. Fortunately for travelers, that attempt has been denied, at least for now. In an unpublished ruling, State District Judge Bonnie Lee Goldstein denied the taxi association’s request for a temporary restraining order, allowing the airport board’s rules changes to stand.
The judge indicated she could not temporarily stop the policy from taking effect because the airport didn’t do anything unlawful by changing its position, which was exactly what the airport board’s attorney argued during the hearing.
Historically, any driver picking up passengers at DFW was required to obtain a special airport permit. Only a limited number of permits were issued, thus effectively blocking drivers not associated with the cab companies or shared ride companies like Super Shuttle from picking up passengers (Uber and Lyft could drop passengers off at the airport, however). Effective August 1, the airport board changed the rules to scrap the separate airport license system, and allow any driver with a permit issued by the cities of Dallas or Fort Worth to pick up passenger at DFW, provided that they agree to collect the standard $2 airport pick-up fee. Taxi drivers allege this is “unfair”, because the extra competition for the same number of passengers, and the fact that they must charge a higher flat rate to most destinations than Uber or Lyft can, means they won’t be able to pick up as many fares. The airport board’s position was essentially “these are our rules, and there’s nothing illegal about allowing in additional competition”. The judge agreed with the airport.
This isn’t exactly the end of the matter, as the lawsuit itself will presumably go forward, but for the most part, I find the charge that “stiff competition” is a cause of action rather silly. Sorry, but if you want to compete with Uber, start by improving your product. The one argument that might have some merit is the flat rate dictated for taxis to specific destinations; for example, taxis must charge a fixed charge of $45 to downtown Dallas, whereas Uber will take you there for as little as $25. Whatever merit there might be to that argument, however, the taxi operators are barking up the wrong tree. It’s 20.2 miles from Terminal D to my office at 1601 Elm Street, which would yield a fare of $42.73 if you ran the meter and added on the various airport surcharges – and those metered rates are higher than what Uber and Lyft charge to begin with (and that doesn’t even include the tip). And somehow, I don’t envision taxi drivers beating down the doors of the airport board to reduce the meter rates to allow them to be more competitive. Second, the taxi lobby argues that a larger number of cars will be chasing the same number of passengers, but I just don’t think that’s true. Previously, I would NEVER consider taking a taxi to or from the airport. It’s $80 from Plano with the tip each way; it’s far more cost effective to either take a Super Shuttle, or just take the car and park off-airport depending on how long I’ll be gone. Uber quotes me a fare of $31-41, a price point that is compelling. I see it more as Uber and Lyft competing for traffic that doesn’t currently exist; if there were no Uber, Yellow Cab wouldn’t be getting my buiness, anyway.
Bottom line – if taxi drivers want to charge me a premium price, then give me a premium product, and most importantly, don’t keep trying to take advantage of me. Pretty much everywhere I’ve gone in the world, I’ve been ripped off by taxi drivers – from rickshaw drivers in Hyderabad that intentionally take the long way around to drive up the meter, to the cab driver in Madrid that charged me for waiting time even though he showed up 15 minutes early, to the one in Houston that tried to charge me a meter rate higher than the fixed rate from Hobby Airport to downtown, then copped an attitude when I questioned him about it, to the untold number of times I’ve called for a taxi to pick me up, only to have it be a no-show. I don’t use Uber all that much, but when I do, it shows up within 5-10 minutes of me requesting it, the drivers are friendly and seem happy to be doing what they’re doing, and the fare is within the amount quoted in the app. So, count me as happy that the taxi monopoly has some “unfair competition” to deal with.
If you’re flying to or from DFW and would like to give Uber a try, feel free to use my promo code: ttwfo. It’s good for a free ride, up to $20 (for rides in excess of $20, you’ll only pay the balance).