Representatives of the taxi industry in Miami-Dade County said this week that they are willing to cooperate with authorities in improving service at Miami International Airport, the focus of recent passenger complaints about some drivers who refused them transport, did not accept credit cards or overcharged them.
“We are seeking a meeting with the director of the Aviation Department and have formed a task force to improve service at the airport,” said Diego Feliciano, president of the South Florida Taxicab Association, who along with Orlie Jedwab, owner of Key Transportation, spoke to members of the Miami Herald editorial board Tuesday in a telephone conference call.
The statements were the first comprehensive industry response to a new campaign to improve taxi service at MIA that the new aviation director, Emilio González, has launched. The campaign aims to prevent drivers from refusing service to passengers who hail them for short trips, to compel them to allow passengers to pay by credit card and to ensure they don’t overcharge passengers on long trips.
El Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald published articles last month listing a number of complaints from dozens of passengers about taxi service at MIA. The complaints painted a situation in which several drivers refused to transport passengers going on trips not far from the airport, refusing cards credit payment and overcharging on long trips.
Copies of the complaints were given to the newspapers by MIA administrators as part of the campaign started by González to improve taxi service.
In a statement Tuesday, González said: “I am committed to providing our traveling public the very best experience once they come through this airport into Miami-Dade County. And at the present time, I don’t feel that this is happening with our taxis due to our archaic transportation ordinances.”
Taxi driver representatives have acknowledged that some drivers abuse passengers, but note these are a minority. Drivers also said the root of the problem is the system through which they are forced to operate their taxis.
“We are 6,000 drivers and there must be some who are bad apples,” Raymond Francois, leader of the taxi drivers group New Vision Taxi Drivers Association of Miami, said recently. There are 2,121 taxis in the county.
Feliciano and Jedwab said the problem could be corrected at MIA if authorities increase the number of enforcement officers assigned to monitor taxi service. These inspectors are authorized to issue citations to drivers if they refuse service or commit any other abuse against passengers.
Feliciano and Jedwab said they agreed with a draft ordinance sponsored by County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata requiring taxis to carry credit card charge devices.
But Jedwab and Feliciano said they did not support proposed legislation by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson which would increase the number of vehicles that could operate as taxis in the county.
The change would devalue existing taxi and sedan permits. Sedan licenses sell on the open market for between $15,000 and $25,000. The county’s more expensive,2,121 taxi permits would likely lose value as well. The last time the county auctioned six taxi “medallions,” in 2012, they sold for $415,000 on average.