Angry taxi drivers protest sweetheart deal

29 Nov

About 100 horn-honking taxi drivers encircled the Cherry Creek Mall and passed out leaflets today protesting new restrictions that give preferential access to two cab companies.

“Pretty much it was a sea of orange,” said Lisa Bolton, CWA Local 7777 president, referring to the color of one company’s cabs. “It went excellent.”

The Cherry Creek Mall is one of the prime locations in Denver for taxi drivers to find clients and Christmas is the busiest and most profitable time of the year.

But representatives from two taxi companies say the Cherry Creek Mall recently entered an exclusive deal with two competing taxi companies that denies them partial access to the shopping center.

Only Yellow Cab and Metro Taxi will be allowed to wait at taxi stands outside the mall.

Union Taxi and Freedom Taxi drivers can drop off clients at the mall and when called, pick up clients, but they can not sit at the designated taxi waiting areas.

“It hinders competition and freedom of taxi choice,” Bolton said. “Freedom and Union charge lower fares. They are handcuffing the two minority-owned taxi companies.”

But Cherry Creek Mall General Manager Nick LeMasters said the mall has become so popular that something had to be done to restrict the volume of taxis waiting outside the mall. It had become a traffic issue.

“It was simply out of control,” LeMasters said.

The mall entered a financial agreement with two proven companies that provide quality service, he said.

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with them,” he said. “This is certainly not a slight on Union or Freedom.”

If mall patrons ask mall employees to call one of the other taxi companies, they will be glad to do so, LeMasters said.

The taxi contract is no different than many other business arrangements the mall has with numerous venders that give them exclusive access to the shopping center, LeMasters said.

He added that most of the taxi drivers for Yellow Cab and Metro Taxi are minorities, who are owner operators.

Mall security guards barred protesters from going onto the mall property today. Denver police officers threatened to ticket the cabdrivers for honking their horns in violation of a noise ordinance.

Bolton pursuaded the officers not to ticket the taxi drivers when they stopped honking, she said.

“Shoppers were more than willing to take the flyers,” Bolton said.

from the Denver Post.

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