Bids opened for taxi service at Islip town airport

Passengers inside Islip's MacArthur Airport. (Jan. 7, 2010)

Passengers inside Islip's MacArthur Airport. (Jan. 7, 2010) (Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas)

Travel deals

The commissioner of Long Island MacArthur Airport has begun overhauling taxi service at the Ronkonkoma airport, soliciting bids for a single provider, to avoid price variations and professionalize service at the facility.

Eleven companies have responded to the town's request for proposals, or RFP, which was issued last month to provide exclusive taxi service at Long Island's largest airport. The bid period closes Thursday.

Airport commissioner Robert Schaefer said customers have long complained about inconsistent fares among the dozen or so taxi companies operating at the airport and a lack of oversight.

The plan would give a single taxi company an exclusive operating agreement for three years and would require the company to station a dispatcher, who would handle all payment transactions, at the airport. The company would also operate a shuttle bus from the airport to the nearby LIRR Ronkonkoma station.

Schaefer said the taxi service overhaul correlates with his larger plan for growing the airport, which in recent years has seen flight traffic drop from roughly 50 daily flights to 22.

"It's part of the image I want to portray to the visitors to Long Island -- it's a friendly place to come to; you don't have to worry about getting ripped off," said Schaefer, who described the current system as "a hodgepodge . . . I want everyone to feel safe, secure and fairly treated."

Bill Wyatt, manager at Lindy's Taxi, an Islandia-based taxi company with a fleet of more than 100 cars serving Suffolk County, said the proposal is a good idea. Town officials have not identified the applicants, but Lindy's officials acknowledge bidding on the contract.

"It should be just one company," Wyatt said, adding that the "very slow" airport doesn't provide a lot of business.

Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr., who serves as the town board's liaison to the airport, said he's heard of airport users being charged $25 to be transported "across the tarmac" from the airport to the nearby train station, which he said is "greedy."

"New York always gets that, 'Oh, they're gonna rip you off' type attitude. Well, now that's not going to happen."

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