Archive for the ‘New Orleans Cabs in the News’ Category

Smelly, battered cab would scare visitors away: A letter to the editor

Published: Monday, August 16, 2010, 1:40 AM

Letters to the Editor

I took an embarrassing and mortifying cab ride from the airport in mid-June. Compared with other cities, some of the cabs servicing Louis Armstrong International Airport are an abomination. To my sister and me, who had been traveling for 18 hours, the cab looked OK from the outside. But inside, it was filthy, smelled terrible, had duct tape on all the arm rests and had no air-conditioning (there was a clip-on fan up front that had an electrical adapter sitting on the front seat). The driver was eating something out of a cup and throwing the leftovers onto the cab floor. 2 0 0Share I had to call three entities before finding the correct organization to which I could complain about this situation: the City of New Orleans Taxicab Bureau, the cab company and then Landside Operations at Louis Armstrong Airport. The cabs servicing the airport represent the first impression that many visitors encounter upon arriving in our wonderful city. If I were a visitor, I would certainly wonder if I were in a Third World country, rather than in one of the greatest cities anywhere. Visitors do not think of a particular cab company or Landside Operations when riding in such a car. They think of the city of New Orleans. And this cab did not make a good impression, I assure you. This taxicab and any others like it should not be picking up any customers, except perhaps representatives from the cab company that operates it, the airport or the taxicab bureau. While New Orleans has many complex problems, this one could easily be remedied. With standards that should already be in place and proper enforcement, all our cabs would welcome visitors, rather than scare them away.

Delia O. Armand



GTC NOLA in City Business!

Tourism chief wants newer, greener cabs; industry insists it’s too expensive

POSTED: 03:31 PM Wednesday, August 4, 2010
BY: Richard A. Webster, Staff Writer
TAGS: Alan Fisher, Green Taxi Co., Ike Spears, London Livery, Mitch Landrieu, National Customer Advisory Council, New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Stephen Perry

Alan Fisher wants to create New Orleans’ first “green” cab company and in the process expose what he sees as the glaring weaknesses of the city’s existing taxi industry — unprofessional drivers operating broken down vehicles lacking the modern technology commonplace in every major city.

One of the main problems Fisher wants to address is the quality of the city’s cabs. All of Green Taxi Co.’s cars will be new and taken off the road after five years of service, an unheard of policy in the Big Easy, Fisher said.

New Orleans is one of the only major U.S. cities that doesn’t place a limit on the number of years a taxi can operate. City license records indicate there are cabs as old as 30 years operating in New Orleans.

Chicago law requires that cabs be put out of commission after four years. Five years is the limit in Las Vegas, Dallas and Minneapolis, and six years in Houston and Boston.

The National Customer Advisory Council brought the issue to the attention of Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, several years ago.

“They told us as customers who bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city that we had not only a less-than-acceptable but a relatively poor overall taxi system compared with most of our major competitive set,” Perry said.

Once Mayor Mitch Landrieu gets settled, Perry said he plans to push for uniform standards within the local taxi industry including age limits on vehicles and mandatory driver training to ensure they are educated on the history, culture and attractions of the city.

“We need to raise the standards like we’ve done at the convention center, hotels, restaurants and airport,” Perry said. “We can’t have the entirety of the tourism industry moving forward and this one component in terms of taxis standing still.”

Attorney Ike Spears, who represents several of the city’s cab lines, rejects the idea of vehicle age limits. He says it’s economically unfeasible to demand drivers buy a new car every five years.

“People want our industry to look like San Francisco and New York,” Spears said. “Well, pay us what New York and San Francisco pay their drivers.”

Despite Spears’ assertions, initial fare charges and per-mile rates are comparable among New Orleans, New York and San Francisco, though vehicle leasing fees and gasoline surcharges may differ.

Spears doesn’t deny the taxi cab industry could be improved but is adamant it can’t be done by outsiders legislating changes.

“I don’t think they fully understand the nuts and bolts of what the taxi cab drivers go through on a day-to-day basis to try and make ends meet,” he said. “It’s a low-margin game. Most of these guys are self-employed trying to support themselves and their families.

“Everyone wants the industry to be better and more reflective of a positive experience for the tourists. But everybody also wants to be able to make a living to go home and support their families at the end of the day.”

As for the need for a green cab company, Spears doesn’t see it.

“I don’t think the guy catching a taxi cab from work to home is looking to see if the car is green or the company is green,” he said.

The Green Taxi Co. would consist of a fleet of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. The fleet would average 35 miles per gallon compared with 15 mpg for standard cabs and save an estimated $2 million in fuel costs annually, said Fisher, former owner of London Livery, a 25-year-old limousine service destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The drivers, called “ambassadors,” would be trained according to London taxi system standards, which Fisher calls the “best and most professional in the world.”

Perry said one of the most frequent questions he fields from convention planners determining whether they want to come to the city is what type of green initiatives are in place.

“I can’t tell you what a huge selling plus it is,” he said. “Right now they’re giving New Orleans a little bit of grace because of Katrina. But it’s a real weakness and one we hope to address soon.”

Fisher is trying to do his part and said he has enough investors lined up to have his vehicles on the road by early 2011. But nearly all of the city’s 1,640 taxi licenses have been distributed. To purchase an existing permit, Fisher would have to pay up to $30,000.

He plans to petition the City Council to increase the number of taxi licenses or create a separate category for “green” taxis, two moves the cab industry is vehemently against.

But Fisher has Perry firmly in his corner, and the city’s top tourism official says the time is now to move the industry into a more environmentally conscious and innovative direction.

“There’s no question this will be a hard issue to resolve and it will be politically sensitive,” Perry said. “But we all need to come to the table and create a master plan and a target date. It cannot be overestimated what a powerful line of ambassadors taxi drivers can be either for the good or negative.”•

Cabdriver shot dead in Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans

Published: Friday, May 21, 2010, 10:18 PM     Updated: Friday, May 21, 2010, 10:34 PM

A man — about 6 feet tall, who may be in his early 30s — shot a cabdriver in the Irish Channel Friday night in view of a non-functioning crime camera and then hailed a cab several blocks away to leave the scene, police said.

United Cab company driver Arvil Hicks III, 52, of Avondale was shot several times and found dead in his cab shortly after 7 p.m. at 6th and Chippewa streets, near Pete’s Bar.

Michael DeMocker / The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Police investigate the murder of a cab driver at Sixth and Chippewa under a crime camera residents say does not work on Friday, May 21, 2010. Police believe the motive for Hicks’ death was robbery — a crime Hicks’ fare allegedly committed a second time shortly afterward.

The suspect, who has dark skin and short hair, hailed a second cab at 6th and Camp streets. At Dufossat and Baronne streets, he robbed the second cabdriver and commandeered his vehicle, said Maj. Robert Bardy, commander of the 6th District.

“The suspect then drove that cab while the driver of the second cab rode in the back seat,” officer Hilal Williams said.

The suspect exited the second cab in Central City at La Salle Street and Washington Avenue and fled, Bardy said.

A functioning crime camera is at that location. Bardy said. Police hope it captured video of the suspect.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 1.877.903.7867. Callers do not have to give their names or testify and can earn as much as $2,500 for tips that lead to an indictment.

Hicks appears to have been shot while in his cab, said John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office.

Hicks was dead at the scene, where New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas joined investigators and members of the Crime Lab.

Cab driver booked with threatening tourist for a tip

Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010,  6:36 PM     Updated: Tuesday,  June 15, 2010, 11:21 PM
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A Kenner cab driver was booked with extortion and false imprisonment for allegedly threatening a Texas tourist and refusing to let her out of the vehicle until she paid a 10 percent tip.

Sohail Kahn.jpg
JPSOSohail Kahn

The victim, a 57-year-old woman from Bellaire, was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans on business. She took a Yellow-Checker Cab to the airport Friday at about 3:15 p.m. to fly home, according to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office incident report.

The woman said she confirmed before entering that cab that she would be able to pay by credit card. But when she arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the woman said, driver Sohail Kahn, 37, told her that in addition to the fixed $33 rate, he would be adding a 10 percent tip, the report said. She refused and demanded the driver process her card and get her bags.

The woman said she tried to get out of the cab, but could not because the doors were locked, the report said.

She said the driver cut off the engine and made a “grabbing motion” for her purse. He clenched his fist, waived it in her face and said, “You will pay me my 10 percent tip, or I will not let you go,” the report said.

The woman said argued with the driver for about 30 minutes as the temperatures rose in the vehicle. She eventually called 911 on her wireless phone. When a deputy sheriff arrived, he noted the victim was crying hysterically, shaking and sweating.

Kahn initially told the deputy that the 10 percent tip was actually to cover the credit card transaction fee. But the deputy later confirmed that there are no such fees charged to passengers, and drivers are responsible for their own fees, the incident report said.

Kahn, of 3044 Kansas Ave., was booked with extortion, false imprisonment and simple assault. The New Orleans Taxicab Regulation Bureau also seized his permit, the report said.