Monday, February 07, 2011


Star-Advertiser steers us wrong in airport taxi service article

by Larry Geller

This appears to be a case where the newspaper got the headline right (Star-Advertiser, Airport taxi service under state scrutiny, 2/7/2011) but not the story. Indeed, the state Department of Transportation confirmed that they are looking at the airport taxi dispatch contract. After all, this is a New Day. But the taxi driver problems the article highlights have nothing to do with it, and nothing to do with the airport contract.

After a flight from Hilo, Honolulu lawyer Jae Park hailed a cab at the airport.

Alas, he recalled, the driver barely spoke English.

"I told him I wanted to go to Kalihi," Park said. "I knew the street address and he looked confused at first. He started driving, and it seemed like he was going in the right direction. Then I ended up in Fort Shafter." …

The reporter has taken us for a ride. The taxi driver presumably worked for one of the many Honolulu taxi companies. The airport contractor, Ampco System Parking, does not provide taxi service.

The article cited a second example:

According to some of the formal complaints, drivers have been rude to passengers or disregard directions. In one complaint a passenger told the driver to take the H-1 freeway and not Nimitz Highway, but the driver took Nimitz anyway. At least two complaints in 2010 were filed from one driver who complained about other drivers stealing his customers by cutting in front of him.

Again, the first driver did not work for the airport contract holder but for one of the cab companies. The complaint should be routed to the cab company or to the individual owner-driver.

According to the DOT, there were 14, not 12, complaints against Ampco in 2009, and of those five were from a single driver. Perhaps the 2010 complaints were also from that driver. In any case, it’s not clear that one driver cutting in front of another should generate a complaint against the airport contract holder.

Clearly, the complaint level is exceptionally low given the thousands of trips in any given week.

My calls to Ampco were referred to the DOT, which confirmed that any taxi may take rides at the airport. The cars are required to apply to do that, and are provided with a device which times their trip away from the airport. This is to protect them against short-haul customers who may want a ride to a nearby location. Drivers at New York’s La Guardia or JFK airports, when I lived there, hated to wait hours on the cab line only to score a 10-minute trip. The Honolulu system avoids that. Should a driver return to the airport within a short time, the device allows them to move up towards the front of the line so they will get another fare very quickly.

If NYC cabs had had a similar system, Queens residents would not have been exposed to quite so much colorful language.

But I digress. The point is that the article’s taxi stories had nothing to do with the airport contract.


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