Taxi Owner Goes Undercover, Files Papers Against Lyft and Uber

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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Photo by Alfredo Mendez
Remember, this is what a Lyft car looks like.
Citations seem to be part of doing business, and breaking into a new market, for the app-based ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. They're finding out that elbowing their way into Houston's livery space for the past month doesn't come cheap. (Remember, Lyft is the one with the pink mustache on the grill, and Uber is the other one.)

Neither organization is allowed to operate like it wants to in this city, just yet. There's this little thing called Chapter 46 and an amendment to for-hire requirements that's working its way through city council. An Uber spokesperson tells us that they're looking to eliminate a 30-minute wait requirement, as well as a minimum fair requirement for catching rides. Right now, both services operate without charging riders. But that might not really be the case according to testimony heard in city hall.

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Men Who Allegedly Held More Than 100 Locked in Houston Home Went Before Judge This Week

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Photo by Makaristos
Five face charges in stash house smuggling case in Houston.
When Houston police pulled over a red Mustang last week they found a couple of guns and a number of papers that HPD spokesperson John Cannon said showed some illegal activity.

Soon after police, who were investigating a possible hostage-taking, made the decision to enter a residence on Alameda Schoo Road. What they found shocked them.

It was a typical immigrant smuggling stash house situation: boarded up windows, doors that locked from the inside, men in their underclothes and without shoes. What was atypical, said Cannon, was the amount of people smooshed inside the location. There were 115 people inside the house, all allegedly held against there will by at least five men who, according to court papers, threatened men and women with guns, a taser and a wooden paddle.

The people trapped inside the home told police that they had paid to cross into the U.S. but were being held until families paid transportation fees. This week, those five men accused of holding those folks, stood before a district judge on charges of extortion and smuggling.

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Some Things to Consider as Zipcar Expands in Houston

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Photo by Compas
Zipcar wants to get all up in Houston.
Hey, need a ride-share?

The City of Houston has used Zipcar's technology of electronically loaning and reserving cars for a little more than year. A total of 13 city departments use this technology which promotes clean air and has city employees whipping around in electric and hybrid vehicles.
How sporty is the Nissan Leaf EV, actually?

Rice University's had the service for about three years and used it to find weekend rides to nerdy ragers. The imprint expanded this week to include Houston citywide. Well, not really that "wide" since most of the non-Rice rental locations are near downtown and midtown. So, what's not to like? You get to rent a Japanese or European car for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 an hour and around $75 or so a day. If you're slumming, you can opt for a Ford Focus or something like that.

And in a you-better-have-a-car town like Houston, who needs a pay-as-go ride-sharing service anyway? Before you chain up your fixed gear bike and take a last swig of that Starbuck's latte and sign up for a Zipcar account, let's look at some reason not to even bother using this service. (You'll thank us later.)


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Missouri City Bank Robbery Suspect Grabs Loot, Gets Away on Kiddie Bike

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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Missouri City cops are investigating a recent bank robbery.
At first, cops must've thought it was some kind of prank. A guy walks into a bank on Wednesday afternoon, asks for some money and walks out. His getaway car, though? A little kiddie bike.

Maybe drugs were involved, who knows. But this guy committed a federal crime in broad daylight and then pedals off (standing up, because he obviously can't fit on that small seat, what with his knees all in his face) with a sack of cash. Bet cops can't wait to catch this character.

It's a good thing no one was hurt. As a statement from the FBI press office in Houston tells it, the guy walked into the Amegy Bank of Texas at 5820 Highway 6 in Missouri City around 2 p.m., approached the counter and pulled out a gun and demanded cash.

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Southwest Introducing Nonstop to Washington, D.C., Reagan National Airport

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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I pity the fool who hails my cab!
Beginning the first week of August, if you need a flight to DC, it just got a little easier. Southwest Airlines is launching nonstop flight service between Hobby Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to a release. Recently, the airline began nonstop service to Pittsburgh (yay?) and Charlotte (yee haw?), and it will begin nonstop flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport in June.

Let me just say that while I personally hate to fly, if I am going to go somewhere, I absolutely want to go nonstop. Layovers suck and a nonstop means one less takeoff and landing. They can sometimes be a necessity, but when it comes to flying to large airports around the country, there's no good reason to have layovers unless you either love airport lounges or absolutely must save every penny you have because that extra $20 you saved having a layover in Little Rock for four hours was so TOTALLY worth it, right?

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I-69 Signs Along I-59: No, It's Not a Clever Joke. Stop Giggling.

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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Whenever I think of U.S. 59, I think of constant gridlock from Shepherd through the 288/I-45 interchange, the flat, treeless drive to Fort Bend County and the piney woods of east Texas in all its glory. It is a unique stretch of road that runs from Mexico well into Missouri. Oh, sure, it changes numbers here and there. It's 59/71 in Arkansas, merges with 270 in what must be a lovely drive through the Ozarks, finds itself again in Oklahoma before weaving back through the northwest corner of Arkansas and into Missouri merging with 71B. Ultimately, it peters out when it becomes I-49 just south of Carthage, birthplace of Preston Lacy of Jackass fame.

For sometime now, the famed NAFTA Superhighway has been touted as a connection point between Mexico and Canada, after you drive through nearly 3,000 miles of U.S. territory, of course. At least in Texas, we are moving ahead with the numeric change turning good old 59 into the lurid I-69, and now we have the signage to prove it.

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Houston's B-cycle Program Begins, with More Kiosks to Come

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Photos By Craig Hlavaty
A B-cycle at rest.
Houston's maiden foray into a public bicycle program began just weeks ago, with kiosks full of sturdy red Trek bicycles at B-cycle stations open and ready to serve Houstonians adventuresome enough to leave a car -- or more than likely, truck -- behind and embrace Bayou City life on a bicycle.

The kiosks are beginning to pop all up over Houston, with locations at the Downtown YMCA, Market Square Park. City Hall, the George R. Brown complex and in a parking lot in the Continental Club area.

A rep from the B-cycle office says the group is looking to roll out at least 15 more kiosks, with locations in the theater district, Midtown, Montrose and the Museum District coming in the next few months.

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Monster Jam Invades Reliant Stadium This Weekend and Next

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Photos By Craig Hlavaty
As the Houston Texans buckle down for this weekend's do-or-die against the New England Patriots, just steps away, 3,500 yards of dirt are being fashioned into a monster truck course for the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam on the floor of Reliant Stadium.

Monster Jam brings dozens of car-crushing trucks and thousands of fans into the House that Bob McNair Built each year. Last weekend's event was pushed back one week due to the Texans having to play the Cincinnati Bengals in postseason action.

This morning, Maximum Destruction and driver Kreg Christensen was up early doing press in advance of the show along with an assistant. His rig has a $200K price tag, and it's doubtful you could get an insurance company to insure you. The tires only hold about 20 pounds of pressure. My guess of 80 pounds was way off.

Max D's current incarnation has been touring the circuit since the 2011 season, but Christensen has been driving since 1992, starting out as a mud racer.

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Nine Dead in Fatal Car Accidents Over the Weekend

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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The roads in Houston aren't exactly beyond Thunderdome, but they can be dangerous, particularly when they are wet and slick with rain, as was the case this weekend when nine people lost their lives in six separate accidents on the streets and freeways of Houston, according to multiple reports.

One batch of four accidents happened in eight hours according to Chron.com. Another fatal accident happened Sunday afternoon when a pileup of cars on I-45 at North Main caused a METRO bus to swerve and hit a person who had gotten out of one of the vehicles. I, unfortunately, happened to be driving the opposite direction on 45 when I saw the person being taken away on a gurney. Scary.

Finally, a reported accident killed four and critically injured another when a truck carrying five men hit a curb and rolled over on the Eastex Freeway early Sunday morning.

It is worth noting that several of these accidents happened before it started raining in the area, so, to quote Hill Street Blues, let's be careful out there.

Autorama Delivers Sweet Rides, Lovely Ladies and One Kick-Ass 1948 Dodge Power Wagon

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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Bob Olofson's sweet restored 1948 Dodge Power Wagon.
Cool cars and hot chicks. If that isn't how the Autorama is normally promoted, that is exactly how they should do it next year. As you can see in our slideshow from this past weekend's car-stravaganza, there were plenty of both, but especially the rides. They had all the freaking Batmobiles and the damn Mach 5! I'm not normally a car guy, but damn.

Also on display is the beautiful, fully restored 1948 Dodge Power Wagon, owned by Bob Olofson of Georgetown, Texas. Olofson took home the first of 15 Steele Rubber Products Master Builder Awards selected by the International Show Car Association and awarded to "one outstanding vehicle restored with little or no professional help," according to a press release.

Olofson's Dodge most definitely qualifies. Scan through our other photos from the Autorama for more eye candy.

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