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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 Entry, July 1, 2017.
Tijuana Mayor
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
Tijuana Cracks Down On Yellow Taxis Amid Harassment Of Tourists And Residents GUEST: Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

Tijuana tries to redeem its reputation as a safe city to visit but an episode last month did not help. Yellow tracks he -- tax it drivers clashed with travelers including a resident who was trying to take Uber. They have banned the yellow cabs from gathering at nine areas at the border crossing. Jean Guerrero spoke to the mayor about the move and she joins us now. Welcome. Thank you. Was the clash last month part of an ongoing dispute? Yes. That is correct. Uber started operating in 2013. Every since then, throughout the country, there have been clashes with Uber drivers and taxi drivers, arguing about the right to pick people up and and especially in Tijuana, we have seen a recent escalation with several beatings. They prohibited yellow cabs from parking at the border. What did the mayor have to say about that ? He said, nobody can monopolize a border crossing and he wants to make sure that tourists and visitors, as well as residents feel comfortable to take any cab they want and not just yellow cabs. He wants to make sure that mobility continues.We have to recover the streets. We have to get back sidewalks. No one holds the streets or the sidewalk. No one holds any part of the walkways. If someone has to take a yellow cab, great. If they need to take the white and blue, go ahead. It is fine. It's okay. If anyone wants to take RT, rapid transit, go ahead. There is no limitation. They can be there as long as they are not creating a monopoly? Yes. What if the city does not have that ? She is corrupt. That is it. Why am I so emphatic? Why should I express myself like that? She is corrupt. We are going to have a political jury and an answer. We do not want judges like those in Tijuana. I reached out to the state and the judge that he is referring to for a comment. She has not responded. We are hoping to get a response. Basically, yellow cabs argue that they have permits to have control of that area and that the mayor says those permits are no longer valid under his administration. The taxis are fighting back. What led to that yellow cab industry poor reputation in Tijuana? When you cross the boarding the shop were, the first thing you see is a sea of yellow cabs. That has been going on for decades. They congregate there. They compete for the attention of people who are visiting. I mean, recently, there have been complaints that they bully people into taking their cabs even when there are others passing -- offering better prices. The mayor argues that they are ripping people off. They gather in such large numbers that they are the ones who set the price. They can overcharge people if they want to. Here is more from the mayor. When you do not have someone who tells you you are doing it right, you are doing it wrong, when no one tells you that there are some things are doing wrong, you grow those. All of a sudden, you do not listen to no one. They have been allowed to do as they please? Yes. They tell tourists that they must use yellow cab? Yes.When I went to the completely -- political party. They endorsed my candidacy. They endorsed it not to do things wrong. I accepted their help, the emotion to try to take me to my triumph politically. And a sense, doing things right and not doing them wrong. Is it safe for tourist to takes taxis? Yes, it is safe. Which ones? Any taxi. What about Uber? Yes, it is safe. I asked him specifically about Huber, earlier this year, in April, there was an incident of a driver transporting a San Diego student. The Uber driver was shot and killed. He said he had no knowledge of that incident. He could not comment on it. That is currently under investigation and I will continue to look at. They are fighting the order that prohibits yellow cabs at the border. What is next in this? The judge, the state admitted -- administrative judge ordered that city to allow the cabBut the mayor has no plans to backtrack and he orders the police to patrol the area and to be stationed at the area to make sure the yellow cabs do not come back. It is an ongoing battle in the courts. I have been speaking with Jean Guerrero. Thank you . Thank you.

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.

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

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."

A pedestrian passes a lone yellow cab in Tijuana, July 20, 2017.
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 Cracks Down On Yellow Taxis Amid Harassment Of Tourists And Residents
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.