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Protest Set Over Proposed Limousine Fees at Airport

Times Staff Writer

Operators of limousine services to Los Angeles International Airport were making plans Monday for what one organizer predicted would be “a sea of 100 limousines” as part of a demonstration scheduled today against a proposed airport access fee for such vehicles.

Members of the Southern California Limousine Owners Assn. are upset over the proposed imposition of an annual fee of $1,000 per vehicle, one of various changes in transportation company fees that will be the subject of hearings by the Los Angeles Department of Airports today through Friday at the Proud Bird Restaurant on Aviation Boulevard.

Along with sending as many limousines as possible, “we are going to hold a small demonstration outside the Proud Bird Restaurant,” said Traci Chelf, associate manager of Lincoln Limousine Services. “If the proposed tax goes through at LAX, we foresee the other local airports following in their footsteps, and that would eliminate the small limousine service industry.”

The LAX proposal has the taxi and limousine industries lined up in opposition to each other, for the changes would lower costs to taxi operators while imposing fees on limos for the first time.

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“The limousines use the facility. Why should they not pay commensurate with the business they do?” asked Frank Filosa, president of the Taxi Industry Council. “One thousand dollars a year for limos is not excessive at all. In fact, it’s probably low.”

The proposed changes would also impose fees for the first time on airport use by charter buses, hotel shuttle services and off-airport parking lot shuttles.

Richard Barnaby, vice president of the Southern California Limousine Owners Assn., said operators are not necessarily opposed to paying the $1,000 fee, but feel that if they are required to pay such a sum, they should get some benefits in return that make it easier to pick up passengers, such as a “holding area” where limousines could wait for passengers and a communications system from that area to the various terminals.

Limousine operators are not united in opposition to the fee, however. George Akoboff, owner of Metro Transit Systems, said he thinks it would be fair for limousine companies to pay as much as 10% of their airport-generated revenues--in his case more than $3,000 per vehicle per year--if in return they could have terminal space to sell tickets to prospective passengers, and if all other companies, such as hotels with shuttle services, paid equivalent fees based on revenues.

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