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Why Austin Taxi Drivers Can't Refuse a Ride Based on Destination

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News
Ever been refused a ride by an Austin cab? If it was due to trip length, they broke the law.

Have you ever been denied a cab ride in Austin?

After last week's deadly crash on Red River Street, there's been calls for more and better public transportation and taxi service.

But during special events like South by Southwest, it seems like more and more Austin taxis refuse to take riders for a variety of reasons. Carlton Thomas with the City of Austin’s Parking Enterprise says the most common reason is that "drivers are not interested in taking the short trips."  

He should know, because all complaints about cab drivers come to his department.

Cab drivers turn down short trips for a simple reason: since they don’t have a salary, the bigger fares they take, the more money they make.

Thomas says those drivers "are actually breaking the law if they refuse to convey a passenger."

The city ordinance that regulates cab drivers does allow them to refuse a passenger under some very specific circumstances: if the driver believes he or she will be in danger, or if the passenger is behaving in a disorderly way. But drivers can't refuse your business just because you are going a short distance.

In Austin, refusing a fare is considered a Class C Misdemeanor. The maximum fine cabbies can face is $500.  Enforcement is complaint driven, so you can file a complaint online, or call 311. You’ll need the company’s name and the cab number.

There's more on the story in the audio player above. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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