Council delays action on airport-shuttle proposal
The Chronicle's Alexis Grant reports that City Council has delayed action on a plan to allow one company to offer door-to-door shuttle service from the airport after objections from cab companies and another shuttle company:
Under pressure from cab companies, the City Council on Wednesday delayed action on a contract for a shared-ride shuttle that would give Houstonians another option when traveling to the city's airports.
The five-year contract has come under fire because it would go to only one vendor, a SuperShuttle franchise in partnership with Yellow Cab. That would create an unfair monopoly that would put taxi drivers out of business, some cab company representatives say.
Mayor Bill White said he sympathizes with taxi drivers and would prefer to contract with more than one company, but he's not sure the market would support that.
"It's a service we were convinced was risky enough so that we needed to start with one vendor," White said.
Most large cities have a door-to-terminal airport shuttle service, but a contract for one in Houston has been postponed for years, mainly because of political pressures. In 2002, the city hired a consultant, who recommended the contract include two or more vendors.
Raymond Mbala, vice president of government and legal affairs for the ground transportation service Texans Shuttle, which competed with SuperShuttle for the bid, said Yellow Cab was chosen for the contract because of the company's political clout. Yellow Cab controls more than half of the city's taxi business.
Mbala charged that city officials were "putting Yellow Cab's interests before the city's, the citizens' interests."
Mayor White says the single-shuttle-vendor option was chosen because the venture is "risky," but the risk to Texans Shuttle is minimized by the fact that the company has successfully operated shuttles to/from both airports for years, so Mayor White's assertion just isn't convincing. There must be some other reason that Mayor White wants to set up a single door-to-door shuttle provider. Perhaps an exclusive contract generates more revenue for the city? Or perhaps there's some other reason. Anybody know?