Cooler cabbies is goal of measure before city leaders

A change being considered by the City Council this week will do away with some of the dress code for cab drivers at the airport while still asking for “a professional look and appearance.”
Taxi drivers at Palm Springs International Airport will finally get to wear shorts under rules being considered by the City Council this week.

Cab drivers accustomed to competing with the recent advent of rideshare services at Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) have been battling another foe much longer: the heat. Now, city officials hope things will simmer by doing away with rules adopted years ago that some describe as both arbitrary and discriminatory.

Driving the news: A city ordinance requires that some vehicle operators doing business at the airport – including taxi drivers — wear a collared shirt, pants, shoes, and socks, even in the extreme heat of the summer months. A change being considered by the City Council this week will do away with the requirements while still asking for “a professional look and appearance.”

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  • ·It sounds like a holdover from the 1950s when men always wore a suit and hat. But it all started in 2005 when PSP worked with a consultant to establish rules to ensure “that passengers are treated with a certain level of quality to enhance their airport experience.”

Cab drivers we spoke with Monday said it’s not their appearance that tourism officials should be worried about. 

  • “I see men and women driving for Uber dropping people off wearing tank tops and flip flops and even pajamas,” said Irene, a local cab driver who preferred not to give her last name. “But if I do that, I get in trouble.” 

Pay up: Drivers told us that if they’re caught wearing shorts, an uncollared shirt, or open-toed shoes, they can be fined $100 and banned from the airport for 24 hours.

  • “But it’s so arbitrary,” said Mary, another local cab driver who only wanted to go by her first name. “It just depends on their mood. They’ll enforce it one day and not enforce it the next. We just keep getting mixed signals.”

  • We reached out to officials at PSP and City Hall for comment Monday, but they were unavailable.

Why it matters: Palm Springs is a casual resort city year-round, but especially in the summer when temperatures regularly reach over 110 degrees. “We can sit there for three hours waiting for a ride. What are we going to do, run the car for three hours?” asked Irene.

  • Unequal enforcement of the dress code is also a factor, according to Mary, who reported she often sees female cab drivers singled out for dressing wrong more often than men. “It honestly feels discriminatory,” she said. “I’ve told people in other cities about this rule, and they think it’s crazy.” 

Moving forward:  Cab drivers said their pleas for permission to wear cooler shoes and clothing had primarily fallen on deaf ears – something a city staff report acknowledges — so they welcome the move. The measure is on Thursday evening’s consent agenda, so it should pass with little debate.

  • “We kept asking why,” Irene said. “Why do we have to dress a certain way? We’d ask the city, they’d tell us to ask the airport, and they’d send us right back to the city. It was just a constant back and forth.” 

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