LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Bob Blumenfield pushed Los Angeles World Airports to hold taxi drivers to new standards of accountability Jan. 19 as the Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, which oversees the airport, approved new zero-tolerance rules for race-based taxi discrimination.
In October, Blumenfield called for an investigation and an action plan to eliminate instances of refusal of service by taxi drivers on the basis of race after former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville talked about being refused service by a taxi driver at LAX who suggested that Glanville should “take the bus,” instead.
An airport employee told Glanville that it was the third time she had witnessed a driver refuse service to a black passenger over the course of her shift.
“In this day and age, it is unacceptable that anyone can be turned away at one of the busiest airports in the world because of the color of their skin,” said Blumenfield, who chairs the committee. “We need to ensure equity and accessibility in our transportation options and fair treatment for people of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities.”
Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that runs the airport, led an investigation in response to Blumenfield’s motion and confirmed fears that discrimination was occurring undetected. Los Angeles Airport Police sent undercover African-American plain clothes officers into the LAX central terminal area to conduct a “secret shopper” investigation.
The task force approached 25 taxicab drivers to request service. Five of those requests were refused. LAWA gave those shocking results to their contracted taxi coordinator, Authorized Taxi Supervision (ATS), who increased penalties for trip refusals in response.
The Jan. 19 committee action included the approval of an amended the contract between LAWA and ATS that makes explicit new penalties and enforcement mechanisms designed to eliminate refusals of service motivated by prejudice, including immediate revocation of the driver’s permit to provide taxicab service at the airport. Additionally, ATS is now required to notify LAWA of all complaints and disciplinary actions taken.
“We can’t and won’t tolerate prejudice in any form and are committed to rooting it out wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head,” Blumenfield said. “Together with LAWA, the city is confronting the problem of race-based taxi discrimination head-on.”
The revisions to the airport’s penalties for taxi drivers are similar to rules adopted by the Department of Transportation, which issues citywide permits for taxi drivers, Los Angeles World Airports official Marisa Katnich said.
The amended ATS contract is expected to be heard by the full City Council within the next few weeks.