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These cabbies live at the airport 24/7 to compete with phony drivers stealing rides


Only a few blocks from George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas, a designated waiting and staging area serves an informal coalition of licensed cab drivers. Drivers listen for their number to be called then drive to the terminals to secure a fare.


The "depot," which includes a massive car lot and lounge, is set up for waiting: food trucks, televisions, pool tables and even a simple gym keep everyone busy.

But in the past couple years, "waiting" has become drivers' primary job. Along with new competition from car services like Uber and Lyft, pervasive illegal limousine drivers, or "touts," are wrecking the cab industry.

These touts sneak into the baggage claim area and surreptitiously solicit rides, a practice the city of Houston forbids.

As a result, Houston's vetted and trained cabs make just one or two trips a day, regularly bringing in no more than $50 dollars from a full shift.

Raymond Ito, President of the Houston Taxi Association

The underemployment is forcing the depot to accommodate more people than it's designed for. Drivers are now working seven days a week, and many sleep in their cars to save on gas.

The only air-conditioned lounge stays packed: Restless drivers crowd the lounge playing chess and cards all day long; others huddle around big screen TVs showing soccer or the news; the "geek squad" holes up in a corner, studying for entrance exams.


Among other issues, the bathrooms, not intended for such numbers, are not adequately maintained.

"Every time the city [comes] for repairs, it's takes forever," said Bissong Bissong, an adviser to Raymond Ito, president of the Houston Taxi Association. "I don't think they regard us as humans."

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