Culver City Edition West Edition

City Council bans taxi discrimination at LAX

LOS ANGELES — The City Council has approved a “zero-tolerance” policy that will result in the immediate revocation of a taxi cab driver’s permit to operate at LAX if the driver refuses to pick up customers because of racial animus or some other prejudice.

The stricter rules, approved on a 15-0 vote, were prompted by a complaint last September by former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville.

He said that because he is black, he was refused a ride by a cabbie at Los Angeles International Airport, and was told by a taxi dispatch officer that she had seen other black passengers get refused rides earlier that day.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield said Glanville’s account, published in The Atlantic, made his “stomach turn” and spurred him to call for new policies at the airport.

“It’s 2016 and we’re going to reflect that in our policies and our actions, and we are not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination,” Blumenfield said.

City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson thanked Blumenfield and officials of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that operates LAX, for taking action on discrimination by taxi drivers.

“As someone who has flown into towns who could not get a ride in a taxicab — it’s not exactly rational, but when it happens, it changes your entire opinion about that whole town forever,” he said.

Airport police conducted an undercover operation in November with two black officers hailing trips from taxi drivers. Out of 25 requests made, they were refused five times, airport officials told the committee.

A couple of the refusals may have been because the trips were too short, but there were some cases in which taxi drivers refused giving rides before knowing the destination, airport officials said.

Blumenfield said recently he was “shocked” by the refusals, which he said pointed to a problem of racial discrimination among taxi drivers at LAX.

Previous rules provided for permit revocation after the third offense, and allowed the driver to make appeals to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

The new rules call for immediate, permanent revocation of a driver’s permit to operate at LAX if he or she refuses service based on prejudice against a specific race, nationality, religion, age, disability, sex or gender identity.

Refusals of service for other reasons will result in no less than six days suspension from the airport, while discourteous actions could lead to suspensions lasting no less than four days.

The revisions to the airport’s penalties for cabbies are similar to rules adopted by the Department of Transportation, which issues citywide permits for taxi drivers, according to airport officials.

City officials do not appear to agree on whether the taxi driver’s actions against Glanville were motivated by race.

The driver who refused Glanville a ride was initially hit with a one-year revocation of his permit, but the revocation was downgraded to two weeks after the driver appealed to the Department of Transportation. The driver said he refused service not because of Glanville’s race, but because the trip was too short and would have result in a lower fare.

According to Samson Mengistu, a deputy executive director with LAWA, the driver told transportation officials that “he had a language barrier and he did not mean to discriminate.”

Mengistu, responding to a question from Councilman Curren Price, said under the new rules, a similar appeal could not be made to the Department of Transpoirtation, and airport officials would be able to revoke the driver’s license to operate at the airport.

The revised penalties replace existing enforcement rules included in an agreement with Authorized Taxicab Supervision Inc., an outside company that manages taxi dispatch and taxi stands for LAX.

The council also requested that airport officials consider similar rules that would apply to the taxi companies themselves — not just the drivers — and for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.