Dozens of drivers rallied today near the federal courthouse downtown to draw attention to their case and what they say is an unfair business model. The permit owners lease their cars and permits to the drivers, who act as independent contractors with no benefits or stability. Furthermore, the drivers say, they have to buy their own gas and cover the costs of operating the taxi. The drivers say the fees end up costing most of their income. Mark Goodman, the drivers’ St. Louis-based attorney, told reporters today that the arrangement makes Kansas City’s taxi drivers "subsistence workers."
City ordinance caps the number of permits issued at 500. In order to get down to that number from 547, forfeited and surrendered permits will not be renewed. The suit says the nine cab companies pay the city $164,000 each year to renew the permits, and the drivers then pay the companies $6.4 million in leasing fees.
The drivers’ lawsuit seeks a court order blocking the ordinance from being enforced. If the drivers are successful, the local taxi industry could more closely resemble St. Louis’, which allows independent taxi operators and distinguishes between airport-exclusive taxis and on-call services that pick up customers at other locations.
After the jump, see a table that Goodman says breaks down how much companies earn by leasing their permits.