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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:36 p.m., Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Airport taxi contract award delayed

By Lynda Arakawa
and Gordon Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The state is delaying the awarding of a four-year contract for the Honolulu International Airport taxi dispatching service, citing questions about current taxi operations, Linda Lingle's administration announced today.

The bid opening was scheduled for Saturday. The state's current, seven-year contract with SIDA of Hawaii, Inc. expires Jan. 31.

Lingle's chief of staff, Bob Awana, said the state plans to extend its current contract with SIDA until April 30 and in the meantime a task force will decide whether the vendor should exclusively serve the airport.

"The broader issue that we're concerned about is as it affects the users of that service, are we better off to have an open system where any taxi can come onto airport grounds, pay a fee and get in line and pick up passengers, or should there be an exclusive operator?" Awana said.

He said SIDA has an "dual operation," where other taxi companies are allowed to pick up passengers at the airport. Concerns with that system have been the availability of taxis on a timely basis and cleanliness, as well as problems with payments to the state, Awana said.

SIDA owes the state about $670,000 in payments from its existing contract.

Edwin Matsumoto, SIDA chief executive officer, said potential vendors met with state airports administrator Davis Yogi for a pre-bidding meeting yesterday where they expressed concerns about the bidding process.

"The consensus was that they wanted things delayed until the governor had a chance to look at the procedures in letting out the bid," Matsumoto said. "It was done in a rather hasty basis."

Invitations to submit bids was Nov. 26 and the deadline for prequalification was Dec. 24. "The time sequence is quite short to say the least," he said, noting that in the past, bid invitations were submitted in October.

Another concern raised by taxi companies was the possibility that a tour bus company would get the bid. "The feeling was that the taxi industry would be hurt because the bus company's primary interest is filling buses," he said.

Matsumoto said current specifications bar SIDA from submitting a bid because of the outstanding payments. But Matsumoto said his company would be amenable to staying on, if even if in an interim capacity, "under the right circumstances."

Matsumoto said his contract requires him to pay $37,000 a month, an amount SIDA can't afford under the state's existing conditions.

When tourism numbers began to drop in 1999, both the number of drivers, and SIDA's revenues, began to decline as well, Matsumoto said. He estimated that the number of drivers under contract with SIDA has dropped to about 300 from 400 during that time.