STITA Taxi Files Lawsuit Against Port Of Seattle For Breaking Contract
On Monday (Feb. 1st), the Seattle-Tacoma International Taxi Association (STITA) announced a lawsuit against the Port of Seattle to stop the Port from “unfairly awarding” its airport taxi contract to Yellow Cab (Puget Sound Dispatch).
In the lawsuit, STITA contends that the Portâ€™s bidding process violated the state Airports Act, because the Port discontinued its prior practice of charging fees to taxicabs based on the airportâ€™s actual cost of services provided to the cabbies. Instead, it required bidders to commit to pay an unfair concession fee of at least 10 percent of their airport-based revenues. This violates the Airports Act, which says airport concession fees must be based upon the Airportâ€™s actual cost of operations and be reasonable and uniform.
STITA has 216 cabs, 450 drivers, and claims to have brought in $10.58 million to the Port between 2004 and 2008.
According to a press release sent to us by STITA:
On Friday, STITA filed a complaint asking the court to halt the Port from signing a contract that violates state law. STITA seeks a fair and legal proposal process in which all bidders can compete on a level playing field.
â€œIf you think itâ€™s difficult to hail a cab in Seattle now, wait to see what will happen if STITA cabs are put out of business,â€ said Jesse Buttar, STITA cab owner. â€œWeâ€™re trying to make sure that doesnâ€™t happen. Weâ€™re asking the Port to reconsider and allow us to fairly compete for the airport contract. Weâ€™re sorry this has come to legal action, but we STITA members are ready to fight against what we feel was an unfair process by the Port of Seattle.â€
In 1989, STITA â€“ a non-profit co-op with the greenest cab fleet in the country â€“ was created by the Port of Seattle to exclusively serve the airport and provide reliable service to airport users. Now, after an unfair proposal process, STITA and its approximately 450 members and drivers will essentially be put out of business.
â€œPeople tell us to go work for Yellow, but we canâ€™t,â€ said Kanwarjit Bassi, who followed in his fatherâ€™s footsteps and drives a STITA cab. â€œWe donâ€™t have Seattle for-hire licenses and itâ€™s nearly impossible to get one. We were prevented from expanding service outside of the airport by the Port and now itâ€™s telling us to go away. But, thereâ€™s nowhere to go.â€
In its lawsuit, STITA contends the Portâ€™s bidding process violated the state Airports Act because the Port discontinued its prior practice of charging fees to taxicabs based on the airportâ€™s actual cost of services provided to the cabbies. Instead, it required bidders to commit to pay an unfair concession fee of at least 10 percent of their airport-based revenues. This violates the Airports Act, which says airport concession fees must be based upon the Airportâ€™s actual cost of operations and be reasonable and uniform.
STITA contends the Portâ€™s bidding process caused a predatory bidding war among taxi companies which not only was illegal but will be financially devastating to the King County taxi industry.
STITAâ€™s lawsuit also contends that the Portâ€™s new concession fee violates the King County Code, which requires the King County Council to set the taxi meter rate at a level that is â€œjust and reasonable.â€ The Portâ€™s new concession fee cuts directly into the countyâ€™s taxi meter rate and prevents cab operators from receiving the gross receipts that they legally are entitled to receive.
â€œIâ€™ve driven a cab for 35 years â€“ mostly seven days a week,â€ said Patty Stephens. â€œIt wasnâ€™t an easy living, but at the end of the day I barely made enough to feed my family. And I could take care of sick children or go to their soccer games without getting fired. Itâ€™s the only life we know; my daughter and son both drive a cab too. Weâ€™re all out of jobs if STITA loses this contract.â€
Despite notice from STITA protesting these glaring problems with the process and proposed contract, the Port of Seattle declined to re-do its flawed proposal and said it would sign an agreement with Yellow Cab. STITA had no recourse but legal action.
STITAâ€™s complaint will go before a King County judge on Thursday.
STITA BY THE NUMBERS:
- Cabs: 216
- Owner-Operators: 283
- Total number of drivers, including owner-operators: approximately 450
- Founded: 1989 as non-profit association
Declining trips in 2009 do not reflect new light rail service to the airport and how it will likely decrease future cab demand.
Current per-trip fee paid to Port for airport pickup:
- $3.05 in 2009;
- $1.80 in 2010.
Current STITA contract ends August 31, 2010.
Revenues to Port:
- STITA, 2004 â€“ 2008: $10.58 million
Number of on-demand taxi trips at Sea-Tac Airport
- 2004: 578,259
- 2005: 639,751
- 2006: 648,275
- 2007: 732,694
- 2008: 740,867
- 2009: 676,010 (estimate)