Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Rethinks Cab, Limo Services

Ongoing bickering between the two groups is forcing the airport to overhaul its ground transportation services in an effort to improve customer service.

The drivers came to the city with a litany of complaints about how they are treated by their employers, saying they held Phoenix responsible because the city contracts with the companies to provide airport service.

Their grievances focused on several major areas, including the cost of leasing their cars from their employers, insurance coverage, the requirement that they use expensive compressed natural gas and competition from on-demand limo drivers.

The airport also says that taxi drivers, who often have to wait in a holding lot for up to 90 minutes before heading to the terminal for a fare, sometimes balk at taking customers who only wish to travel a short distance.

"They tend to refuse short fares, and that creates a real problem for us," Newman said.

That's why officials are recommending the $15 minimum fare rule for rides from the airport. That equates to about a five-mile ride under the airport's current rate structure.

It's unlikely that any changes would go into effect much before Christmas, and some may take even longer. Limousine drivers, for example, are already asking that the elimination of the on-demand service be phased in or dropped altogether.

SuperShuttle and other van or bus services would not be affected.

So far, passengers seem ambivalent to the proposed rules.

Many who take cabs on a regular basis say they rely on them for transportation to their homes and are used to paying a fare of $15 or more anyway, although they do seem to like the idea of being able to use their credit cards.

They also say that they won't miss the on-demand limousine service.

"It seems to me that you could always make a reservation if you wanted to take a limo," Chandler resident Joan Kelly said. "Overall, I really don't think this is going to affect me very much."


By the numbers

542,013: Taxi trips from the airport in 2004.

55,363: Limo trips from the airport in 2004.

195: Taxicabs permitted to operate at Sky Harbor.

27: On-demand limousines serving Sky Harbor.

$15: Estimated "shared ride" limo rate from Sky Harbor to downtown Phoenix.

$6-$13: Estimated taxicab rate from Sky Harbor to downtown Phoenix.

Source: Sky Harbor International Airport


What's next

The Aviation Advisory Board will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday to discuss the proposed changes. Public comment is welcome. The meeting will be held at Sky Harbor International Airport, 3400 E. Sky Harbor Blvd., in Terminal 3, on Level 3 in the West Mezzanine.


Key recommendations

* Eliminate on-demand limousines. Sky Harbor is one of the only airports in the country to offer this service, which allows passengers to walk to the curb and take a for-hire limousine to their destinations. In the future, all limo trips would have to be booked in advance.

* Institute a minimum $15 cab fare. All passengers traveling to any destination from Sky Harbor would have to pay this taxi fare. Overall meter rates would not change.

* Require cabdrivers to accept credit cards. Currently, any passenger taking a cab has to have cash.

* Create new ground-transportation information centers inside the terminals. These one-stop-shop booths would provide passengers an overview of taxi rates and available services, including cabs, shuttles and buses. It would also serve as a gathering area where pre-booked limousine drivers could meet customers.

* Eliminate taxi service on the southern curbs of Terminals 3 and 4. Currently, customers can hire a taxi or limo from both the northern and southern curbs. Airport officials believe the change would alleviate customer confusion by having service only on the northern curb.

CAPTION: Allstate driver Richard A. Merkin (right) helps a customer load bags into his cab Monday at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.


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