Wahid Aslami waits in his cab for passengers at Oakland International Airport. Aslami, the airport representative for the East Bay Taxi Drivers Association, said business has dipped 25 percent since parts of the MacArthur Maze collapsed.
Wahid Aslami waits in his cab for passengers at Oakland International Airport. Aslami, the airport representative for the East Bay Taxi Drivers Association, said business has dipped 25 percent since parts of the MacArthur Maze collapsed. (Ray Chavez - Staff)
OAKLAND — Cab drivers at the Oakland International Airport say business has dipped by at least one-quarter in the wake of the MacArthur Maze meltdown because out-of-town business travelers and tourists are getting misinformation about the freeways.

Wahid Aslami, the airport representative for the East Bay Taxi Drivers Association, which represents about 150 drivers from various companies, said drivers operating out of the Oakland airport report that business has dropped off 25 to 40 percent since April 29, when one highway connector ramp collapsed on another following a fiery tanker crash.

Every single person I pick up says, How are you going to get to San Francisco with the Bay Bridge collapsed?'" said Mahmood Sherzai, who has been driving for the Friendly Cab Company for about four years.

Cab drivers sometimes wait at the airport curb 21/2to 3 hours between fares, Sherzai and others said.

Hugh Do, general manager for the Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental in Oakland, said there has been a slight slowdown in the car rental business this week. But Do isnt sure the dip is related to the maze meltdown.

Maybe a single-digit percent decrease, but nothing drastic, Do said.

Aslami, who works for East Bay Golden Cab, said the slowdown is being fueled by airline pilots and news reports distributing incorrect information about the state of Bay Area freeways, among other things.

The I-880 connector reopened Monday morning and a firm began rebuilding the connector to I-580 on Monday night with plans to be completed before the June 27 Caltrans deadline.

Aslami, who has driven a cab for five years, said traffic has actually been smoother and passengers can expect a quicker ride to San Francisco because more people are using public transit.

Its hard to convince customers of that, but our drivers know the streets really well and they know ways to get to San Francisco without problems, he said.

BART continues to run more frequent trains in the wake of the collapse and announced that trains transported more passengers last week than any other week in its 35 years of service.

On a typical Monday morning commute, BART transports about 53,500 riders through the Transbay Tube — connecting the downtowns of Oakland and San Francisco. This past Monday morning, BART transported 57,500 riders or an increase of about 7.4 percent, according to figures from the agency.

One reason for the slowdown among cabbies at the Oakland airport could be that travel has been somewhat soft in April and May in a lot of U.S. markets, said Chris Payne, a spokesman for Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental.

The number of passengers flying in and out of the Oakland airport in April and May is consistently around 14,000, but figures for April and May 2007 were not available Wednesday. Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said the airport has been assisting travelers with plans for getting to the airport while the freeway is repaired.

Wire services contributed to this report.