Several of us said that the livery group would not be happy even though DME employees were moved. It seems we were right. They won't be happy as long as DME is available for free. I hope that Disney EXTENDS the free period! Taxi drivers protest fees, Disney shuttle Beth Kassab and Jerry W. Jackson Sentinel Staff Writers October 4, 2005 Frustrated by rising fuel costs, higher lease fees, and a free airport bus service, taxi drivers demonstrated Monday at Orlando International Airport and in downtown Orlando. Dozens of taxi drivers organized a strike at the airport, lining up in the holding lane but refusing to take passengers, though several cabs were still available for service. Drivers said it is increasingly difficult to operate at the airport. They want lower lease fees from the companies that own the taxis, and they want airport officials to end a contract for Disney's Magical Express, a free airport-to-hotel shuttle that began in May. "Nobody makes money here," said taxi driver Frank Garcia, one of those at the airport. "They killed the taxi business and the town-car business here." Airport officials said Monday's demonstration caused no disruptions for passengers. The Magical Express service, approved by the airport, is provided by Mears Transportation under contract to Disney. Some 5,000 passengers use the service every day. Drivers said they are also frustrated by Mears' recent decision to raise the weekly fee it charges them to lease its vehicles. Town-car drivers protested Monday at Mears' downtown headquarters, saying their lease fee was just increased from $700 to $850 a week. "This year there is just no way to keep up," said Selidieu St. Jean, who has worked for Mears' town-car division for the past nine years. "We used to have enough business in Orlando, but now we don't. So I'm out of business after nine years. I can't afford it." Mears spokesman Roger Chapin said the fee increase was a standard yearly increase that occurs in mid-September or October, as business starts to pick up before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Chapin said the company understands the drivers' concerns but does not intend to lower its lease rates. "Fuel prices are compounding the problem," Chapin said. "It's been a hot, slow, expensive summer, and I think we're seeing the frustration." He said Magical Express is not to blame for what drivers say is a major slowdown in business at the airport. "We just haven't seen the decline in the demand for service," he said. "Not from the customers." Last month, taxi and luxury-car drivers won some concessions from Orlando International officials, who told Disney that its airport greeters would no longer be allowed to stand on the third level of the main terminal to direct passengers to Magical Express. No other transportation company can have greeters on the third level, the airport said, so it made the change out of fairness to the others. Beth Kassab can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5448. Jerry W. Jackson can be reached at 407-420-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.