The president of a local company that shuttles travelers between Lawrence and Kansas City International Airport says a new ground transportation contract at KCI is anti-competitive and will hurt his business.
For that reason, A-1 City Cab Shuttle Corp., Rt. 3, has joined four other firms in a federal lawsuit filed against Kansas City, Mo., alleging that Kansas City's aviation department acted unfairly in negotiating a contract that favors one private transportation service. A hearing on the suit is expected within 60 days.
Paul Shackelford, president of the local company, said the companies filing the lawsuit are interested in restoring a level playing field for firms providing ground transportation services.
Shackelford and other firms involved in the lawsuit have enlisted the help of U.S. Rep. Jan Meyers, R-Kan., who has requested an urgent meeting with Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver.
IN A LETTER to Cleaver, Meyers asked the mayor to clarify the legality of a new Kansas City, Mo., ordinance that favors only one company, KCI Shuttle Services Inc.
KCI Shuttle recently was awarded a contract from the city to provide ground transportation to and from KCI. The city solicited bids for a new transportation concession operator because the former concession operator, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, terminated its contract with the city.
Meyers wants to know if Kansas City's aviation director privately negotiated significant changes to the KCI Shuttle contract, giving the company more favorable terms than those contained in the city's original solicitation for bids.
The other firms are particularly upset about one practice.
THEY SAY it is unfair for KCI Shuttle to be able to meet each arriving flight in a golf cart and sell ground transportation tickets to arriving passengers. Under the new rules, the other ground transportation companies are prohibited from entering the terminal buildings except to collect pre-paid or pre-reserved arriving passengers.
"These terms now give KCI Shuttle, Inc. an obvious competitive advantage over all other ground transportation companies," Meyers wrote in her letter to Cleaver. "The Kansas companies are now prohibited from entering the terminal building to inform passengers of the availability of their services. In addition, they are not even permitted to establish a stationary ticket counter for ticket sales in one terminal and a location to assemble passengers waiting to use their services. They are not even allowed to have signs in any of the terminals, which would indicate there is any alternative ground transportation other than KCI Shuttle Inc."
SHACKELFORD said his company has been providing shuttle service to KCI since 1988 and makes about 15 trips a day. He said he employs 13 shuttle drivers, who take KCI passengers to and from Lawrence almost hourly. The company has eight vans and a 60-passenger bus, he said.
Shackelford said he has sent letters to Kansas City's mayor and to Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., about the situation.
Shackelford said he received a letter from Kansas City's aviation department Thursday informing him that until the matter is resolved, the old contracts will be in place, which will continue to allow his company to go into the airport to pick up passengers.