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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Agreement for airport taxis is encouraging

Anyone hailing a cab at Honolulu Airport knows the system can on occasion be chaotic and disorganized. Given the rush of travelers, that's expected.

But a recent strike by airport-based cab drivers has called attention to the way Ampco Parking Systems assigns cabs to passengers going to distant points on O'ahu.

The complaints suggested an inherently unfair system based on favoritism.

The cabbies who want airport fares pay a $4 fee per ride to Ampco, a private company contracted by the state to run the airport's taxi dispatching.

Drivers are not part of a union, but line up and are assigned fares on a first-come, first-served basis.

But cabbies alleged dispatchers are favoring those who pay a little more to get the higher-paying fares those going to, say, Turtle Bay. They also said not all cabs are forced to pay the $4 fee.

Drivers also complained about what they called Ampco's "strong-arm tactics" used to conduct searches of taxi cars.

The settlement reached late yesterday between Ampco and cab drivers is encouraging. Ampco's agreement to end the use of cell phones to assign fares and to rely solely on two-way radios is a good start. But Ampco will also have to ensure that fares indeed are assigned on an equitable first-come, first served basis.

The state Department of Transportation should still investigate all the complaints.

Getting a cab at the airport should be easy and efficient, based on a process that's fair and transparent.

But if, indeed, dispatchers have been bypassing the first cab in line and are calling favored drivers who've paid a premium, or letting some avoid the fee, then the state should look at appropriate penalties.