AIRPORT TAXIS SEEK COMMON GROUND:
JACKSON - Proposed regulations at the Jackson Hole Airport may eliminate a reservation system, forcing passengers to take whatever transportation is available.
It's a move cab owners say could drive them out of business and has sparked a feud between cabbies and the Jackson Hole Airport Board.
Last month the board was set to vote on these and other changes - including limiting the number of cabs serving the airport - but instead has hired a mediator to work through the differences. No timeline has been set for mediations.
"If these proposals go into effect there are a number of taxi companies that will go belly-up," Bullseye Taxi owner Peter McNulty said. "In a nutshell it's because we won't be able to access the number of people we now have." The feud began earlier this year when the airport board ordered taxi rates to increase for passengers going into town and to Teton Village. The board had wanted rates to raise from $12 per person to $17 per person for rides to town, but cabbies persuaded the board to lower the cost to $14.
Several cabbies have said eliminating the reservation system is detrimental to both taxi companies and to passengers. Currently, arriving passengers often call ahead to arrange for a taxi to meet them, or hotels or resorts in town contract with a taxi service to pick up clients. The proposed changes jeopardize that process. Airport officials say the changes are needed to prevent aggressive taxi solicitations. One of the Taxi Owners said:. "Denying taxis' right to handle reservations denies the general public the right to be transported in a way they want to be transported,". Resorts and other area businesses will suffer because they cannot arrange for transportation for customers. George Larson, airport manager, said it would be inappropriate to comment on drivers' concerns because the issue is going before a mediator. He has said competition between cab companies at the airport is so fierce passengers have complained, and airport managers need to do something about it. Through a 1967 Teton County ordinance, the airport board has the power to regulate businesses operating at the airport. Last month, McNulty begged Town of Jackson officials to amend this ordinance, a provision allowed for in 1968. "No one in this country has or should have unlimited power," he told town officials. The town has the "opportunity to correct a mistake - and by majority vote deny this out-of-control airport board its unchallenged power," he said. Although the airport board was to vote on the new regulations in May, it elected to hire a mediator to work with cab companies. Mediation timelines have not been set. Still, cab owners think the board may be trying to help valley shuttle companies, which charge $12 per person for a trip to town. . "We believe the airport board is doing the bidding for shuttle companies." Taxi Owner said the board may want to guarantee business for shuttle companies because they service the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. "Capitalism is history in Jackson Hole," he said. Taxi Owner said aside from it being "ethically immoral" to regulate taxis, the airport board may be operating illegally.
"I believe it to be illegal according to the rights of any individual in America to go into business for him or herself," he said. Particularly, Taxi Owner said, limiting the number of cabs serving the airport is unfair to companies that entered the business knowing the airport was a demand center.
"There should be grandfathered businesses," he said. "People went into business knowing the airport was a major part of their income."