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Start the Presses: Locals go home

September 18, 2011|By Dan Evans

I love Bob Hope Airport, but I don't love it as much as I used to. But it's not their fault. That lies with the city of Burbank and its Traffic Commission.

Due to an anti-local, and, specifically, anti-Burbank decision, the minimum fare for a cab ride that starts at the airport will be $15.50, which includes a $2.50 airport fee and a $13 minimum fare. According to the city, this is equivalent to a 4.75-mile ride. The commission approved of the change last month, and it goes into effect Sept. 23.

Let's think about it: 4.75 miles. The city of Burbank sits on approximately 17 square miles. The airport sits, essentially, in the far northwestern corner of the city limits. My geometry knowledge may be a bit rusty, but I remember how one determines the area of a circle: pi-r-squared (πr2). So, if we use 4.75 miles as a radius, and 3.14 for π, this gives us 70.84 square miles.

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This area includes a portion of the Verdugo Mountains, an area into which few cabbies have ventured while on a fare. It also includes a good portion of North Hollywood, Universal City, Toluca Lake, and, by my reckoning, most of northwestern Glendale. But it clearly includes all of Burbank. And that is wrong.

Why? Recall this far-too-common experience: a high-speed, white-knuckle ride home after you have the audacity to give your driver a Burbank address. On one occasion for me, this came complete with the driver screaming at the dispatcher after I gave my destination.

My wife and I have a running bet: Will the driver from Bob Hope be (a) polite, (b) quietly fume, or (c) be actively hostile? Big surprise: The answer rarely is (a). Locals are being forced to give a raise to service providers who, in my opinion, have provided poor service again and again.

The official explanation is that too many cab drivers are getting these short fares, costing them time and, as a result, money. According to a letter written by Martin Shatakhyan, general manager of G&S Transit Management Inc. to the city, many drivers are only getting four fares per shift.

The average fare from the airport is between $20 and $25, Shatakhyan wrote. Given that this does not account for costs for fuel, insurance and the like, he said, this is simply not enough.

I called Shatakhyan for a deeper understanding of the issue, but when I explained why I was calling, he refused to comment further.

Still, I can see his argument. No one can feed a family making $30 in profit per day. But here's another solution: have fewer cabs at the airport so each driver has more fares. We clearly have more supply than demand.

Isn't it enough that we, as Burbank residents, have to put up with the noise and pollution of the airport? Do we have to pay more to use its services, too?

G&S is just one of three cab companies that serve the airport, I want to note, so I have no idea whether drivers from that company are rude. It could be the other guys, or everyone.

Still, I would have far more sympathy if my experiences, and the experiences several of my friends and associates, were better. But they have not been, and it appears the Traffic Commission is rewarding bad behavior here.

The City Council can countermand this decision. And it should.

DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3234 or dan.evans@latimes.com

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