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Are 'Green' Cabs Causing a Super Bowl Taxi Nightmare in Dallas?

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“We have a responsibility...to ensure to the best of our ability that we breathe the healthiest air."

It's been a sub-par Super Bowl week in the host city of Dallas, TX.* The game, traditionally held in warmer climates, has been marred with unusual snowstorms in the "Big D." But sports patrons lucky enough to score a game ticket have been annoyed by something other than the snow once their planes land: the city is experiencing a frustrating cab shortage. "Big D," then, might stand for "big disappointment."

Sure, some blame the weather, but there are others who blame the shortage on a cab driver strike. A strike fueled by anger over a new ordinance that gives preferential treatment to natural gas-powered taxis.

Dallas has two major airports, DFW and Love Field. This past spring, city officials passed an ordinance at the latter allowing new natural gas-powered cabs to jump to the front of the line to pick up passengers, a reward for being "green."

“We have a responsibility as elected officials to ensure to the best of our ability that we breathe the healthiest air. That is why I voted for head-of-the-line, and I would vote for it again for the very same reason,” local council member Vonciel Jones Hill told the Dallas Morning News in defending the measure.

But that means traditional cabs are sometimes overlooked and some say underused. And considering that the bigger cab companies can more easily buy the expensive "green" cabs, the smaller companies and the independent drivers feel it's unfair (as they did on New Year's Eve):

So the "little guys" have been striking intermittently since the ordinance passed in March. They planned their latest work refusal for Super Bowl week. And it seems to be having, at least in part, the intended, crippling effect.

The Morning News notices that at least one prominent taxi stand -- at the official Super Bowl media hotel -- seems to be lacking the normal number of cabs, and "some out-of-towners have complained about long waits elsewhere."

And while the strike is aimed at policies at Love Field, the shortage is spilling over to DFW. According to a message forwarded to the Morning News, DFW airport officials sent a frantic e-mail to tax drivers begging for more cabs:

DFW Airport is experiencing a disruption of taxicab service. Taxicab companies are requested to send any and all additional drivers and vehicles to the airport. Vehicles must be permitted at DFW Airport however drivers with a valid City of Dallas or City of Fort Worth driver permit are being allowed to operate at the Airport." However we are in a CRITICAL state and any taxi you may have will be welcomed.

"This is what we normally do when weather hits or when there's a shortage of taxis in the queue," DFW Airport spokesman David Magana told the paper. "Our normally contingency plan is to call the cab companies in town and tell them that we're relieving the permit requirements for the day, and that any cabs that they have can come to the airport and roll through the queue."

But he was also not willing to blame, or credit, the strike, which might in turn reflect poorly on the ordinance.

"It has more to do with the snow really," he said. "Before the snow was here, we were functioning just fine. There was never a shortage or a disruption in service."

Dallas has seen an odd amount of snow over the last week. But according to an update to the Morning News's story, even the city's mayor pro tem -- a councilman who supports the ordinance -- recognizes the strike is a problem.

"Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway had asked cab drivers to postpone their strike during the Super Bowl and promised that, in exchange, he would work to bring them back to the table for discussions with the city," the paper reports. And while he says he's not willing to change the policy, he's at least willing to listen to the cabbies.

That had no effect on the drivers. The strike continues. And so do the headaches.

*Technically, the game is being played in Arlington. It's also worth pointing out that some of the week's festivities occurred in Dallas's sister city of Ft. Worth. The two main airports service Dallas and Ft. Worth.

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