It doesn't take much to get me riled up about the Portland International Airport (PDX). The City of Portland and the Port of Portland have failed many of my customers by not establishing basic expectations for the cab drivers that service arriving passengers. Too often, my costumers complain that they are cheated by drivers that take meandering routes, others that have tampered with the taximeters, and still more who have gone apoplectic at the thought of any trip that pays less than $50. Bad manners aside, the drivers aren't entirely to blame. It's the Port and the city that have tried to control access to the business at PDX, yet have stopped short of making it a lucrative cash point for seasoned cabbies.
Cab drivers from Radio Cab, my company, have a city to service and very little time to sit, for what could be hours, at the airport waiting to move through the queue. This means that we are denied the right to access the airport, even when we are reserved, unless granted a special permit. I have to admit, I have a permit and I use it, albeit judiciously, to service my returning customers. But, with that said, the process for gaining a permit is ill-defined and its necessity seems to conflate more issues than PDX should try to tackle. The procedure used to vet applicants is couched in the same language we've come to expect after 9/11. It's all for the sake of security, both for the passenger and for the airport. Of course there's no concern for the safety and security of the airport when I drop off my passengers and end up closer to the terminal than when I pick them up. Doing so requires no permit, no checkpoint, and no scrutiny by airport personnel or the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Inefficiency abounds under this model. PDX has detailed records of how many cabs are needed to service arriving passengers because access to the arrivals area is contingent on swiping a proximity card that charges the cabbie $1.50. This fee is then passed onto the traveler in the form a modified flag-drop accounting for the additional charge. The rate at which this gate is accessed provides all the needed metrics for determining the number of cabs needed at any given time of the day. Why these statistics are not more closely evaluated by PDX, or better yet, provided for real-time evaluation to all taxi companies for the sake of streamlining logistics, is beyond me. Only the airport benefits from this mediation in the free-market affairs of travelers and transportation providers.
If you're a traveler, ask yourself; Is my discomfort only worth $1.50? If the answer is no, than demand change. PDX should recognize that all licensed cab drivers (Portland has no gypsy-cabs) are screened prior to being granted a city permit. If the city has determined that I'm safe enough to transport every other living creature outside the airport perimeter, perhaps I'm safe enough to transport you after a long trip and host of other airport related indignities.