June 23, 2014
A contract between a local cab company and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport is working out well, but the agreement has flaws that other smaller cab companies say benefit them.
Yellow Cab and Anytime Taxi are the official providers for ground transportation at CHO. At times, demand has been so high that there haven't been enough cabs for incoming passengers.
"The taxi cab business is on-demand business," said Melvin Carter, a partner of Carter's Taxi. "Call, you need a cab in 10 or 15 minutes, we there."
Melvin says business is up because of CHO's exclusive contract with Yellow Cab.
"It gave true entrepreneurship in the taxi cab business -- let me find business elsewhere," he said.
The contract, which was in effect last year, made Yellow Cab the only company able to wait in line at the airport to take incoming passengers to their final destinations. Lines that sometimes reached up to dozens of cabs from dozens of companies were eliminated in exchange for a single company's six to 12 cars.
"It was a very difficult situation. We knew that there were going to be 40 individuals that might not be able to work out here, and a lot of them came out here every day," said Melinda Crawford, CHO's executive director.
Crawford said the decision to move to a single-company contract was purely business.
"There were not any regulations about what they could charge and what they couldn't charge for transporting our passengers," she said.
Crawford remembers her first complaint from a passenger was about a cab fare. A man told her it cost him $70 to take a cab from the airport to Waynesboro. The following week, the same passenger took another cab that cost him $140 for the same trip.
Now, per the contract, passengers leaving from the airport have some extra security.
"They have specific fares that you're going to be charged so when you get in a cab, what's it going to cost you to get in the cab and who's going to be taking you there because they're all going to be identified now," Crawford said.
The airport put out a request for proposals to find the company that could provide the services they needed. Yellow Cab was the only company who gave a formal proposal.
When Yellow Cab gained the contract, the company offered jobs to other cab drivers at smaller businesses.
"Some of the other drivers, I guess they really didn't want to work for the company itself," said Larry Bose, general manager of Yellow Cab. "They had their own cars and kind of been used to doing things their own way."
There's been one main snag in the process, the airport admits. Sometimes at peak times, there are no cabs in the queue for passengers who just flew in to the airport. This is sometimes due to the fact that flights are diverted to airports in the Washington area, and Yellow Cab has to take passengers to or from there.
"Will you never have to wait for a cab? I doubt it," Crawford said. "We try very hard and Yellow Cab tries very hard. They're very responsive."
And since the Yellow Cabs are tied up, other smaller cab companies, once concerned about a taxi monopoly, now say they're benefiting from increased business.
Carter said he plans to add a few cars to his fleet at Carter's Taxi, and he says other smaller companies plan to do the same.
Both Yellow Cab and CHO call the program at the airport a success, and both claim there's been an increase in ridership. Bose said the company plans to increase its fleet by at least a dozen cars this summer.
"At the end of the day, we had to make sure our passengers were taken care of," Crawford said.