New Orleans — The fleet of taxis that pick up passengers from Louis Armstrong International Airport is about to get an upgrade.
Any taxi, regardless of its home parish, that wants to be permitted to pick up passengers from Louis Armstrong International Airport must now be in compliance with new city regulations.
Though the New Orleans Aviation Board already handed down that decision, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that supports the board’s decision to require the blanket compliance.
Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who serves as chairwoman of the transportation committee, said the decision will put each cab on the same competitive level and will increase not only customer service but peoples’ perception of the city.
Officials have previously said they want taxis to be in top shape in time for the Super Bowl in February.
“It’s a huge win-win,” Palmer said. “We’re going to be at the top of the industry when we’re done.”
While the council’s action was largely ceremonial, it still prompted dozens of drivers to pack the council chambers to jeer in general the new laws that requires taxis to install credit card machines, GPS devices, security cameras and have working air conditioning. Driver must also be fluent in English and use working meters.
One of the largest gripes comes because of a new ordinance that prohibits any vehicle older than 11 years old from operating as a taxi cab, regardless of its condition. Next year that age requirement drops to seven years.
Some drivers, many of whom have protested the reforms weekly since they went into effect in late August, have said there hasn’t been enough time to come into compliance and that the requirements cost too much.
The city has countered that argument by pointing out that the changes have been part of a two-year process and that some vendors have processes in place that will help offset the cost of equipment installation. Any taxi cab that fails its inspection can no longer legally operate.
Deputy Mayor Michelle Thomas said one change for Orleans Parish taxis that pass inspection will be the automatic ability to pick up fares at the airport. Previously, any permitted taxi could drop off passengers at Armstrong, but only those that had an airport permit could collect passengers.
The last time the airport issued permits was about seven years ago, Thomas said. Today, she said, only 459 of New Orleans’ 1,500 permitted taxis can pick up passengers there.
Not everyone, however, welcomes the possible ballooning of the fleet that can service the airport.
Driver Jason Coleman said the sudden surge of drivers who can ferry people to and from the facility will mean less business for those who already have permits.
“Business will not be greater, it will be less,” he said.
Monroe Coleman, who owns Coleman Cab Co., reiterated his concerns about the Dec. 31 deadline taxis face to come into compliance.
“This is ludicrous,” he said.
Others, though, heralded the changes as essential.
“It’s a necessary step for us to be a competitive city we need to be,” said Rod Miller, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.