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Tijuana Cracks Down On Yellow Taxis Amid Harassment Of Tourists And Residents

Tijuana representatives remove yellow cab signs near the San Ysidro Port of E...

Credit: Tijuana Mayor

Above: Tijuana representatives remove yellow cab signs near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, July 1, 2017.

Tijuana Cracks Down On Yellow Taxis Amid Harassment Of Tourists And Residents

GUEST:

Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

Transcript

For decades, San Diego tourists who walked across the border into Tijuana through the San Ysidro Port of Entry would encounter a sea of yellow cabs and yellow-clad cab drivers who shouted, "taxi, taxi!"

But Tijuana's Taxis Amarillos, or yellow cabs, are now gone from the border crossing. They have been replaced by multicolored cabs and vehicles registered with ride-hailing services like Uber.

“The streets and the sidewalks are for the people — not for any company or companies who think they are the owners," said Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum during an interview with KPBS.

Earlier this month, amid rising complaints of harassment and in the name of mobility, the city told the yellow cab drivers they could no longer gather in large numbers at nine of the 40 sidewalks they long controlled, saying their permits to be there were no longer valid. Police are now stationed in the area to enforce the mandate.

The move came after a violent clash on June 30 between yellow cab drivers and a group of people who had just crossed the San Ysidro Port of Entry from San Diego, including a Chula Vista resident. The drivers wanted the travelers to get into their yellow cabs, but the travelers said they preferred to wait for cars from Uber. A witness captured the ensuing bloody fight on a cell phone camera.

In Mexico, the rise of services like Uber — which launched south of the border in 2013 — has been a hard pill to swallow for cab drivers as it has cut into their business. And in Tijuana, this competition has given rise to beatings and confrontations with Uber drivers and riders.

Gastélum said the yellow cab drivers have been bullying travelers for decades, monopolizing the border crossing by gathering in large numbers and insulting visitors who wanted to use other modes of transportation. He said they have also been ripping people off.

The mayor said he wants San Diego visitors to feel they can take any mode of transportation they desire, including Uber cars and nonyellow cabs.

“Either white and blue, blue and white, red and white, green and white, green, blue, black, gray, yellow, whatever. They can take any taxi that they want. That’s mobility. They can be assured it’s safe," Gatelélum said. “Ask them the price, if you don’t like what they’re charging you, take the other taxi cab, you can walk on the streets, feel comfortable, and spend a lot of money in Tijuana."

The yellow cab drivers took the city to court. In a provisional ruling, a state administrative judge told the city to give the nine sidewalks back to the yellow cabs. But Gastélum said the city is not concerned about her ruling: "Oh, she's a corrupt judge."

Photo by Matthew Bowler

A pedestrian passes a lone yellow cab in Tijuana, July 20, 2017.

The judge, Flora Arguilés Robert, did not respond to a request for comment.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because they had been told not to talk to journalists, a yellow cab driver told KPBS that he felt the city's action was unfair.

"We shouldn't all be punished for the actions of a few individuals," he said. "We're not all the same."

Violence in Tijuana has reached record levels this year, with more than 700 homicides in the first six months alone, but Gatelélum said tourists have nothing to fear.

The mayor said the crackdown on Yellow Taxis is part of an effort to make Americans feel good about visiting and spending money in Tijuana.

“If you’re looking for trouble you’ll find trouble — yes, you will find it, and it won’t take long," he said. "But if you go doing things right, visit the right places, you won’t have any problem.”

Tijuana's Taxis Amarillos, or Yellow Taxis, have been banned from sidewalks where they have long gathered after a violent clash with Uber riders, including a Chula Vista resident.

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