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Austin Taxi Drivers Say There Are Too Many Cabs on the Road

Ihwa Cheng for KUT News

Austin taxi drivers are working more but seeing a decline in income and business. And, as you might imagine, many aren’t happy about that. The Taxi Drivers Association of Austin (TDAA) is even more upset that the trend may be exacerbated if the Austin City Council approves 30 new cab permits on Thursday.

The TDAA says the noticeable decline in business happened after a first round of new cab permits approved by the Austin City Council hit the streets in July. Because, while more taxis on the streets means more options for riders, it means more competition for drivers.

A new report released by the City of Austin’s Transportation Department finds the average cab driver made about one fewer trip in July 2012 than in July 2011. Cab drivers made an average of $461 less this July than last—equivalent to a drop of $2.40 an hour. That’s despite an increase in cab fares but doesn’t take tips into account.

Though there are only 6 percent more drivers on the roads, the study also found that the number of hours worked by drivers went up by more than 14 percent.

The TDAA released its own study which shows that the service market at the airport—prime territory for cab drivers—went down by 12 percent. Drivers also blame the decline in the airport market on an increase in other forms of transportation available there. The TDAA says “there has been a 230 percent increase in non-taxi dispatches from the airport since 2009.”

The TDAA is using all of these arguments in its opposition to the city’s consideration of issuing even more permits.

“Austin is one of the last of American Cities that does not have a lease cap, issues new permits without consideration for driver incomes and without evaluation of changes to the taxi market,” Bhairavi Desai, National Taxi Workers Alliance President, says.

Back in June, a representative of Lone Star Cab—one of Austin's two smaller cab companies—argued that the additional permits were necessary to keep Lone Star on a more even playing field with its larger competitors.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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