KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cab drivers in Kansas City, Missouri, say that the city’s taxi system is preventing them from earning a decent living, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
Approximately 250 drivers have files a lawsuit against the city, claiming that they city’s system for awarding taxi permits has created a monopoly that has made some taxi companies rich at the expense of the drivers who actually own and maintain the cars.
They say that the changes that they are pushing for would provide more money for the city, better incomes for drivers and lower fares for cab customers, and that the only losers under their proposed changes would be the current permit holders – companies that don’t actually drive the taxis.
Gammachu Mixicha, an airport cab driver, says that he works 17-hours-a-day, but after paying his expenses he only brings home about $40 for his efforts.
“We will do a better service. And we will increase our professionalism if we own something, and work hard for ourselves,” said Mixicha.
The lawsuit would force the city to allow individual owner-operator taxi drivers to compete for permits, instead of automatically renewing them to those who don’t actually provide the service.
Mixicha, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, says that he is unfairly barred from obtaining his own taxi permit by a monopolistic system. He says that he owns his own taxi, pays for gasoline and maintenance himself, but he must lease a permit for up to $260 a week from one of the nine companies that control all the permits.
“If they did not have to pay these fees, then they could take this money, improve their taxi cabs and even charge lower fares,” said lawyer Mark Goodman. “If that’s not a benefit to the traveling public, I don’t know what is.”
The city charges $300 a year in permits and inspections per taxi. Yellow Cab has 300 permits and charges drivers $260 a week for each permit. Goodman claims that the company reaps in more than $4 million a year for doing nothing more than granting drivers the right to legally operate a taxi in Kansas City, Missouri.
Bill George, the CEO of Kansas City Transportation Group – which owns Yellow Cab, says that the suit’s facts are, “wholly inaccurate.”
“What Kansas City does is very common practice,” at other cities across the nation, says George.
But taxi drivers like Ary Hama-Amini disagree.
“Most of them live under the poverty line,” said Hama-Amini. “And we pay all these fees to all these companies and they don’t provide us with any insurance, health care, 401k.”
City of Kansas City, Missouri, attorney Bill Geary did not return FOX 4′s calls for comment on this story.