- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland officials on Wednesday shot down a Virginia company’s bid to take over taxi service at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport after current BWI drivers raised concerns over the company’s track record and intention to reduce staff.

The state Board of Public Works approved a one-year extension with the airport’s existing provider, BWI Taxi Management Inc., rather than accept a $7.1-million bid from Dulles Airport Taxi Inc., which had sought to control cab service for the next four years.

BWI uses an exclusive taxi-service provider, which selects and manages all cabs that pick up passengers from the airport. Drivers must apply for permits and can either lease vehicles from the provider or drive their own.

Though Dulles Airport Taxi offered to pay the most for the contract, the three-member board had wrestled with a decision since March because of the outcry among drivers over the state’s plans to reduce the airport’s taxi fleet from 320 to 250 vehicles if the contract was approved.

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, a Democrat and board member, said the one-year extension will give the state time to satisfy driver concerns while pursuing a potentially more lucrative contract.

“The drivers were very concerned about the working conditions,” Mr. Franchot said. “It’s a good deal for the state, because we’re going to feel confident that millions of dollars won’t be left on the table.”

The state’s Department of Transportation had recommended that the board - composed of Mr. Franchot, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat - approve the bid.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, a Democrat, filled in on Wednesday for Mr. O’Malley, who was in Chicago for a Democratic Governors Association event.

The state will receive about $2 million in revenue from the one-year extension, according to Board of Public Works documents. A long-term contract is expected to come up for bid again next year.

Drivers who opposed the bid pointed to the company’s history of run-ins with drivers and to its effect on employment numbers.

The company controlled cab service at Washington Dulles International Airport from 1989 to 2000, and some drivers claimed they were forced to work long hours because of low pay and excessive demands. The company has controlled one-third of the airport’s fleet since 2007.

Dulles Airport Taxi also planned to reduce the percentage of BWI airport drivers who drive their own cabs, enabling the company to earn more money by leasing its vehicles.

“We [already] provide a good, excellent service,” said BWI cabdriver Tamrat Zeleke. “We don’t need someone telling us what to do.”

Dulles Airport Taxi President Farouq Massoud said Wednesday that he thinks concerns about his company were overblown. He contended the company would have fought to employ no fewer than 300 drivers and would have helped them increase their revenues.

Mr. Massoud said he intends to bid on the BWI contract again next year.

“Why not, because I know I’m going to win it again,” he said. “I can understand [the drivers’] position, but I don’t know where it came from. Our job is to find a job for drivers, not to terminate the drivers.”

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