WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 28: A Honda Civic GX (CNG) uses a port normal used for gasoline to refuel with natural gas during a conference sponsored by The Electric Drive Transportation Association on Capitol Hill November 28, 2006 in Washington, DC. The three-day conference started November 28 and will focus on achieving energy independence. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Clean-burning taxis burning compressed natural gas (CNG) can now cut in line at Dallas Love Field.
The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday on a proposal to let taxis that run on CNG to go to the front of the cab stand at the airport.
Dozens of cab drivers packed the council chambers to protest the plan, to no avail. The City Council passed the item without discussion.
“I don’t have any checks coming," said Al-Faith Ameen, a leader of the Association of Taxicab Operators. "I don’t have any pension plan. I don’t have anything but the money I make every day. And these people, they’re trying to take it all.”
"We believe, as taxi drivers, it is not right. It is unfair. It is immoral. It is un-American. If you ignore us today, the day will come when no one can ignore us," said one driver.
Cab drivers say the queue line for other cabs is an average of three and a half hours. Drivers say they get about three or four trips a day from the airport after waiting in the line.
Opponents to the policy said the added expense of leasing a more expensive CNG cab or upgrading their own vehicle to CNG would cost the equivalent of two trips per day.
"I cannot do it," Ameen said. "I cannot afford it."
Drivers against the proposal said the city was acting on behalf of large, deep-pocketed cab companies at the expense of small operators struggling to scrape by.
Mayor Tom Leppert said the policy encourages a switch to cleaner natural gas fuel, but does not forbid anyone from working at the airport.
“To me, this was a great policy, and it’s a forward-looking one,” Leppert said. “We’ve got to deal with this issue. We know we’ve got to deal with it. We know the standards are not going to get any easier.”
North Texas is under pressure from the federal government to improve air quality.
But drivers say North Texas is not equipped with enough natural gas filling stations.
“It’s definitely a bad time, because they’re not set up for it,” Lawrence Scism said as he waited in the queue line at Love Field on Wednesday. “When it comes to just putting it right now, and throwing us the bomb right now, it’s not going to help anything."
Some drivers promised to keep fighting the new policy. As the cabbies angrily departed the City Council meeting, one cab driver could be heard urging his fellow drivers to organize politically to try to oust Leppert from office.
But Leppert said North Texas must find more ways to improve air quality.
“Let's move forward in a way that provides an incentive that doesn’t have a cost to the taxpayers and really encourages people to do the right thing,” he said.