OAKLAND -- Taxis and shuttles at the Oakland International Airport operated near each other in different shelters for years. That changed about a year ago, and on Monday cab drivers at the airport called a two-day strike over what they say is unfair competition because shuttles are now allowed to stage in the same shelter.
That's too close, according to Golden Cab Co. driver Wahid Aslami. The proximity is hurting taxi business and making it hard to earn a living, he said. The 200 or so striking cabbies want their competitors moved back to a parallel shelter, a row closer to the parking lot, that was once the domain of shuttles. They also want a wall of advertisements to be removed from the sides of the glassy shelter between the taxi zone and the doors of Terminal 1 because the ads make taxis all but invisible from that terminal.
The drivers have already taken their complaints to the Port of Oakland, which operates the airport.
"But unfortunately we got nowhere," Aslami said.
Port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said the airport is operating as usual and is designed to accommodate travelers and vendors.
Drivers must pay $350 per year for a permit plus a $3-per-fare fee to operate at the airport. They are allowed to pick up from the 2G section of the shelter. Shuttles are supposed to wait along the same curb but in a section behind them. So passengers who walk out of Terminal 1 would come across taxis first, then walk to their left to reach the shuttles, which are mostly tall vans.
Aslami said the shuttles late at night use the 3G space, which is supposed to be reserved for taxis.
The strike did not appear to affect passengers arriving at Oakland airport, at least late Monday morning. The airport allowed taxis without permits to pick up fares because of the strike.
"I need the money," one Yellow taxi driver said before pulling away from the 2G staging area, leaving behind him an assortment of red, yellow, silver and blue shuttles. They were allowed to stage in the taxi area because of the strike.
The shuttles charge a flat rate that varies by company. Some are by reservation only, but one shuttle leaving the shelter Monday charged a traveler $50 for a trip to the Omni Hotel in San Francisco.
The Acropolis Airport shuttle charges $28 to get to downtown Oakland from the airport. The Bay Transit shuttle charges $38 door-to-door from addresses in Oakland to the airport.
Taxis charge a $3 airport fee on top of 26 cents for each one-tenth of a mile.
A ride from the airport to downtown Oakland costs about $32, Aslami said.
"I need a taxi," one woman heading to Walnut Creek said as she approached the stop and bypassed all the shuttle vans. A man in a blue blazer walked past the shuttles and climbed in a taxi. Another woman declined a shuttle after haggling briefly with the shuttle driver over the price. "I'll just take a taxi," she said.