Taxi-ing times ahead

  • Caleb Loehrer / The Garden Island

    Taxi driver Billy Galindo eats lunch while waiting for customers at Lihue Airport.

LIHUE — Uber and Lyft drivers will be able to pick up customers at the airport starting next week, and some local taxi drivers are not looking forward to it.

“I hate it,” said cab driver Billy Galindo when asked how he feels about the ride-share companies being allowed at Lihue Airport.

Others answered the question in more detail.

“We don’t mind competition, but the competition should be level,” said taxi driver Steven Carvalho.

According to Carvalho and Freddie Labrador, who together have nearly three decades of taxi-driving experience on Kauai, the Lihue Airport is set up in a way that puts them at a unique competitive disadvantage.

At many airports around the world, signs direct off-boarding passengers to a line of cabs waiting at the curb. But in Hawaii, taxi drivers are required to park in a separate lot away from the terminal and can only pick up customers who call the airport’s dispatch service from a phone near the baggage claim.

A state transportation department official said the statewide policy against taxis parking at the terminal is in place to reduce congestion and allow more curb space for travelers, but according to Carvalho and Labrador, the rule creates unnecessary expenses for taxi drivers, is inconvenient for their customers and hurts their business.

Carvalho said he pays $150 a month to use the Lihue Airport’s dispatch service, an expense avoided by Uber and Lyft drivers, who are instead contacted by customers through the companies’ mobile applications.

As well, taxi drivers pay taxes and fees that don’t apply to the ride-share companies.

And both drivers maintain that requiring customers to call a dispatcher is inefficient as well, essentially negating the relative simplicity and accessibility that appeals to those who prefer to take a taxi rather than using Uber or Lyft.

For Carvalho and Labrador, it doesn’t make sense to have the dispatch booth out in the taxi parking lot instead of near the baggage claim. At the very least they feel airport officials should allow at least one cab to park at the terminal, to provide a visual cue for potential customers who might not notice the taxi dispatch phone.

There are two phones — one at each end of the terminal — fixed to cement columns under faded yellow signs, about 18 square inches in size, that read, “NEED A TAXI?”

“We’re invisible! They don’t know how to catch a taxi,” said Labrador. “All we got is the phone when we should have a human being talking to people, saying ‘You need a cab? Any questions?’ We don’t have that because of this dysfunctional system.”

“I think the system is outdated, and we need to get the dispatcher in the baggage claim here,” Carvalho said, pointing to a vacant area near one end of the Lihue Airport terminal.

Hawaii DOT spokesperson Tim Sakahara said the decision to grant ride-share companies airport access was made in order to give consumers more transportation options.

“It’s all about a choice for the people,” he said.

HDOT officials announced Thursday that app-based ride-share companies will be eligible on Feb. 1 to start making pickups from designated areas near terminals at five airports across the state.

Uber and Lyft representatives praised the transportation department’s decision, and HDOT Airports Division deputy director Ross Higashi said ride-share companies operating at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu since late 2017 have been well-received by the public.

Carvalho estimated he derives about two-thirds of his income from airport pickups.

When asked what will happen if he loses a significant portion of his airport business to ride-share services, Labrador answered for him — “We’re gonna find another job!”

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Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.

4 Comments
  1. TIMOTHY SKINNER January 27, 2019 5:33 am Reply

    Taxi drivers are allowed to leave the taxi stand if they receive a call from a customer and can provide the information to the dispatcher. The dispatcher keeps a copy and the driver holds onto the original to show Security personal when requested. However, it appears certian Drivers have a hard time developing a loyal passenger base that can keep them coming and going at a steady pace.


  2. Charlie Chimknee January 27, 2019 6:20 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    If I were Governor…

    1.) I would open up the 2 (usually empty) parking lots ar either end of the airport adjacent to the baggage retrieval areas and let taxis park in there keeping 3 taxis stacked there at a time for visibility. Let them park there for FREE as they are doing a service for the people coming home or the people that are coming here to spend money.

    2,) As to Uber and Lyft, if you can’t beat them…JOIN THEM…!

    Charlie


  3. randy kansas January 27, 2019 8:15 am Reply

    we love our taxi drivers !!

    however, times are a changin’

    the buggy whip maker was not too happy when the first car rolled off the assembly line; the CD maker was not happy when iTunes came along;

    roll with it !

    RK


  4. Rio silver February 1, 2019 9:09 pm Reply

    Horse and buggy is not a motor vehicle. Uber and lift are motor vehicles just like taxis but they are not required to have the same insurance or fees associated with having a taxi, this puts the ubers lyftrs at an unfair advantage. But The people driving for Uber and Lyft are the biggest losers. We it comes time for car maintenance and new tires and they sit down and do the math they will realize how Uber and Lyft have taken them for a ride. And Uber wants automated drivers so those people working for them are in fact supplying Uber with the data Uber needs to exterminate them when they get approved for driverless cars. Great company!! Yeah!! Sign me up. Let’s take more money off island by supporting San Francisco based internet companies! Goes to show you the government is not looking out for the people,but at the mercy of big internet factions and the lobbying that they do. Rideshare what a joke, never sharing a ride and it’s not free=taxi. Good luck Uber Lyft and taxi because your a part of society that nobody cares about.


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