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Charlotte Area

Airport Wants To Spruce Up Taxis

Changes are in the works for taxis picking people up at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. When you get in a taxi at the airport, that taxi could be yellow or green or white. It might have a credit card swipe in the backseat. It might not. It might be a new cab or an old one. That kind of variety doesn't sit well with the airport's Aviation Director Jerry Orr. "It's a very confusing picture for the arriving passenger," says Orr. "We want to simplify the process, get more uniformity in both the vehicles and the operation and dress the whole program up for the benefit of the customer." Now the airport can't singlehandedly change any ordinances that govern the age of taxis or what accessories they're required to have, but it can get at that by limiting the number of companies licensed to operate at the airport. In other words, see which companies are willing to offer the most through a bidding process. Orr would like to reduce the number of companies from a dozen to at most three. Right now each taxi pays $1,250 a year to operate at the airport. Orr would like to see that doubled to defray the cost of maintaining the taxi holding area, paying inspectors and providing staff to help passengers with luggage. That extra cost couldn't be recovered by a fare increase since a city ordinance sets that amount. "So who's going to pay that fee, that surcharge as we'll call it? The cab driver's going to pay the surcharge because they're going to raise his fees up," says Ted Russell, president of the local union which represents cab drivers. He expects companies will pass the higher fees on to drivers. At a city council meeting last month, Frank Hinson Manager of Charlotte Checker Cab disagreed with the airport's logic. "The changes in service at the airport are not a guarantee of improved service," said Hinson. "Some of us have answered every demand from the airport authorities including installing GPS units as well as credit card swipes in the rear passenger area." Hinson says companies that don't make the cut are sure to sue the airport.