D/FW International Airport faces restraining order prohibiting favorable treatment of natural-gas powered taxis

By • on January 14, 2010

By Kerri Panchuk and Jeff Bounds Staff Writers
Dallas Business Journal

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A state district judge has issued a temporary restraining order forcing Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to stop allowing taxi cabs running on compressed natural gas to jump ahead of gasoline-powered cabs for fares.

The restraining order prevents the airport from enforcing its "Dedicated Compressed Natural Gas Incentive Program Policy," which its board approved in November. The policy allowed low-emissions cabs to move to the front of the line at the airport’s taxi dispatch center and at the central cab queue.

The restraining order was placed after the Association of Taxicab Operators USA — a group that represents the interests of taxi cab drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth — filed suit on behalf of its members, alleging the airport’s policy was not approved by the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, which jointly operate the airport.

In addition, attorneys for the cab drivers association say even if the cities were to approve such a policy, the operation of taxi cabs is outside the cities’ operating authority at the airport.

The association also argues the policy violates existing rules for lines of cabs at the airport established by the cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, which specify cabs should operate with a ‘first cab in—first cab out’ policy.

In an e-mail, a spokesman for D/FW Airport declined to comment.

D/FW Airport was served with the temporary restraining order late Tuesday and already has stopped enforcement of the policy, said Kelly Hollingsworth, an attorney representing the cab drivers association.

Hollingsworth said the airport’s policy created a situation where a small number of cabs running on compressed natural gas were consistently gaining a competitive advantage.

"It’s been financially devastating for them (the cab drivers)," Hollingsworth said. "Some have experienced a drop in their revenues up to 60 percent." Hollingsworth added that cabs fueled by compressed natural gas are getting about eight to a dozen trips a day, while the remaining drivers have watched their average daily trips drop from around four a day to one to two per day.

Hollingsworth said the restraining order was a "positive sign," and he’d like to see the situation resolved in a more orderly way than litigation.

"Our preference would be to allow the taxicab operators to be involved in the process," he said. Hollingsworth said drivers would prefer a phasing in of energy efficient cabs, where existing cabs over time after running their course are replaced with energy-efficient alternatives.

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