At the world’s busiest airport, hundreds of taxi drivers line up in a massive hold lot every day, each waiting hours to pick up a single passenger.
There are 1,600 taxis in the city of Atlanta, and many spend their days waiting to carry a few customers a day from Hartsfield-Jackson International into town.
And now, there’s increased competition from Uber X and Lyft, which are now legally able to pick up passengers from the Atlanta airport.
For travelers, the expanded competition means more choices with lower prices.
For taxi drivers, it means even fewer customers taking cabs.
City officials are pushing to increase the standards of cabbies, recently passing a new ordinance requiring cabs be at most seven years old to pick up at the world’s busiest airport.
The city council last fall decided to tighten the age limit for cabs making airport pickups from 10 years to seven, effective in 2017. That change was part of a broader effort to legalize and regulate Uber and Lyft pickups at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which had previously been prohibited. The seven-year age limit on vehicles also applies to Uber and Lyft.
But many taxi drivers say they can’t afford to buy new cars, and say they are out of work because of the new requirement and because of an oversupply of cabs in downtown.
At a city council work session Wednesday, Atlanta city councilman C.T. Martin said he plans to propose a resolution to delay the new requirement for six months.
Cab drivers are pushing for older cabs to be grandfathered in. But city officials say that won’t necessarily solve the broader issues of increased competition and an oversupply of cabs.
There are key differences between cabbies and ride-share drivers. The majority of Uber X drivers do the job part-time, for example, while others do the job temporarily. Cab drivers, on the other hand, pay as much as $500 a month for the right to drive a taxi in Atlanta and often make their living driving cabs.
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