Striking Cabbies Leave Taxis Parked in the Road to Shut Down Traffic into Love Field. Says Mayor: Protest Is "Slap in the Face" to City.
|A tow truck operator loads one of seven stranded cabs hauled away from Love Field earlier tonight.|
Today the cabbies set about making their presence known -- first by protesting through downtown for the benefit of visiting media, then by crawling along highways in a low-speed caravan, and finally by parking a few cabs in Love Field's passenger pick-up zone, choking off all traffic into the airport while Dallas Police called in wreckers to tow the cars.
Mayor Tom Leppert, chief proponent of allowing compressed natural gas-fueled cabs front of the line privileges at Love, is not at all pleased with the protest.
"It's disappointing," he tells Unfair Park tonight. "Too many people have worked so long and so hard to pull this week off -- for years -- and it's just disappointing when something like this happens. We're talking a relatively small percentage of the cabs. Unfortunately, a small group of folks are really not taking into consideration the entire community. And it's too bad."
The city's bigger taxi companies, chief among them Yellow Cab and Cowboy Cab, met briefly today with Dallas City Hall officials, who urged them to "get in front of the protest," lest out-of-towners think all of Dallas's drivers are hellbent on crippling traffic during the busiest week in the city's history. Says the mayor, "It needs to be reinforced this is a small group, and most of the cab drivers on the streets aren't who we're talking about. Most of them are out on the streets trying to capitalize on what should be a very good week for them."
DPD spokesman Senior Corporal Kevin Janse tells Unfair Park traffic into Love was blocked for about 20 minutes, by which time seven drivers who'd stranded their cabs were arrested for obstructing the roadway. Two more were written up for "pedestrian in the roadway" violations, one of whom was arrested after he refused to give his name. Late this evening, Janse sent word: "Dallas Police and Airport Operations have derived a plan to prevent this from happening again, however, the specifics of that plan are not being released."
The cabbies insist they can't afford to convert their vehicles to CNG, which they guesstimate will cost in the five figures. Several lawsuits have cropped up over the new ordinance, both at Love and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, but Leppert says he has continued to meet with the cabbies about their concerns -- at a town hall two weeks ago, then again at Dallas City Hall during a council meeting only last week.
"I have visited with them long and hard," he says. "And we'll continue to visit. But we have the bigger issues to deal with -- air quality and now public safety."
Says the mayor, the slow-roll on Central Expressway and LBJ Freeway today posed a genuine threat to public safety.
"And it's disappointing they'll take that position at a time like this, and some of that shows what their agenda is," he says. "It's a public safety issue for people who ought to be as concerned about traffic safety as anyone. And to endanger people, it's just not right."
And then, he adds, this week is "an opportunity to show off the city to many different groups and individuals that'll be here. This week promises terrific business, and to represent the city well gets us more business -- all the things cab drivers want to have. The other cab companies are dealing with it, adapting to it, and it's disappointing you have a small group doing things that are a slap in the face to the community."