ALA leaders (L to R): Abe Abdelaziz (no longer on the board; replaced by Skylar Pierpoint of Arizona Limousines), Mike Brown (The Mahoney Group), Barry Beall, President, (First Class Executive Global), Misgana Kebede, Treasurer, (Accent Transportation Services), Steve Kaplan, Vice-President, (The Driver Provider), Shane Handel, Secretary, (Maxim Worldwide), Justin Scott (Research Underwriters).
PHOENIX — Operators in this dry, sunny mecca for retirement, tourism, housing and recreation would be considered to have it good: No major regulatory challenges and no statewide limousine licensing agency.
But the comparatively low business costs and minimally regulated market does not mean there aren’t battles to keep it that way.
Last year, the Arizona Limousine Association helped stymie two efforts to raise fees on operators serving the Sky Harbor International Airport and the city of Phoenix, says Barry Beall, president of the ALA.
Airport fee grab
In the first effort, the airport wanted to increase looping fees to $2.20 every time a ground transportation vehicle left the airport. Those fees, assessed via mounted transponders, would rise 10% annually until reaching a cap of $5 per trip. Operators now pay $100 per quarter per vehicle to get licenses for chauffeured vehicles to pick-up and drop-off clients at the airport.
The ALA joined with parking garage businesses to speak up at public hearings to oppose the measure. Parking garages would have lost even more money than chauffeured transportation operators since garages run complementary shuttles through the airport, with one shuttle going through as many as 20-30 times per day. One garage company estimated it would be paying $500,000 per year in looping fees.
“It was good to form an alliance with them, and together with transportation companies, we all voiced our opinions,” Beall says.
The current quarterly fee pays for a permit/sticker that allows a chauffeured vehicle to pick up in the prearranged area on the curb and identifies it as legal and registered with the airport. During the quarterly process, the airport also inspects vehicles to ensure A/C and all lights/blinkers/hazard signal/horns are working, and that there is an AVI sticker on the vehicle. Authorities also check insurance and registration of all vehicles to ensure they are up-to-date.
After a few public hearings, the Airport Commission shelved the proposal. But Beall urges the association not to get complacent, especially since a second battle played out with the city last year.
The Phoenix City Council was considering a licensing program that would levy a $1,000 annual fee per chauffeured vehicle, to cover the costs of background checks, licensing, and administration. But such a fee would have duplicated the ones at the airport. After ALA members and local taxicab companies spoke out at public City Council meetings, the City Attorney decided to exempt from the program those transportation operators already registered and licensed at the airport, Beall says.
“We call them temporary victories,” he says. “We would be shocked if it wouldn’t come down this year or next. And we’re ready to battle that as well when it comes around.”
Fair and simple
As is the case in other states and cities, local governments are aggressively trying to fill stretched revenue coffers and cover the costs of their operations, Beall says. While that is understandable, policies need to be even and fair across the board, he adds. “They’re not supposed to charge us more than what the general public is paying. They were hand selecting us as an industry to pay all these costs. If they do it, they should put in a toll booth and charge everyone coming in to the airport $1.”
For now, the ALA and operators statewide can continue their relative freedom doing business in a state where the limousine industry is essentially non-regulated. No state agency licenses chauffeured transportation companies.
“I’ve sometimes had to show my NLA certificate when someone has insisted on seeing a business license,” Beall says. “You buy a vehicle plus insurance and you are in business.”
Name: Arizona Limousine Association
Founded: November 1988
Operator members: 20
Vendor members: 9
President: Barry Beall, First Class Executive Global, Phoenix
Officers: Steve Kaplan, vice president (The Driver Provider); Shane Handel, secretary (Maxim Worldwide); Misgana Kebede, treasurer (Accent Transportation Services)
Limo operators in state: about 400
Meetings per year: Membership, quarterly; board, monthly
Annual member dues: $75 (1-2 vehicle companies), $125 (3-5 vehicles); $150 (6-plus vehicles)
Supported charities: Annual holiday party toy drive for UMOM (www.umom.org), a non-profit that provides shelters for homeless families and mothers who are victims of domestic violence
Phone: (623) 628-6773