Drivers from Baltimore City Cab, Diamond Cab and other companies clogged up a taxi stand yesterday on the side of Penn Station usually reserved for Yellow Cab taxis, protesting that company's exclusive rights contracts to pick up passengers at many downtown hotels, hospitals and other places in the city.
About 20 drivers took part in the protest, which was organized in response to what many of them say is the newest exclusive deal awarded Yellow Cab at the downtown Renaissance Hotel.
Protesters said the hotel had allowed all taxi companies to pick up passengers before March 24, the day an exclusive-rights contract Renaissance officials signed with Yellow Cab went into effect.
Drivers from the other taxi companies said the loss of business from such arrangements has cost them thousands of dollars in recent years.
"We all have the same [city] permit," said Folarin Folawiyo, a cabdriver for 20 years. "Why does Yellow, one company, get all the business?"
Although the places operating under exclusive-rights contracts with Yellow Cab are private entities, drivers from other companies say the effect of those deals sometimes spill over into public roadways.
The drivers point to the cab stand on St. Paul Street, east of Penn Station. Yellow Cab is the only company allowed to pick up passengers on train station premises, and Yellow drivers line up on St. Paul Street, waiting in line to pick up fares.
At 11 a.m. yesterday, drivers from several companies parked along St. Paul - an area previously filled only with Yellow Cabs - and stayed much of the afternoon, leaving the Yellow cabs with no place to line up.
Hassan Bouh, a driver for Diamond Cab, said Amtrak police asked the other drivers to move, but city police intervened and allowed them to stay.
"We're trying to make a point," Bouh said. "Before, we didn't do anything. We just shut our mouths. But these contracts are affecting us. We're not making as much money as we use to make."
The drivers say they plan to occupy the same stretch today and to hold weekly meetings to discuss what legal actions they might take, Bouh said.