Taxicab controversy: PUC allows 300 new cabs after rejecting Mile High Cabs' request for 150

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Our November feature "Mean Streets" focused on the lengthy and fruitless attempts of local taxi drivers to start Mile High Cab. Last August, PUC judge Paul Gomez rejected Mile High's application because he deemed the Denver taxi market was at or near capacity. Now, however, he's approved 300 new Denver cabs -- including 150 for Yellow Cab, a large and powerful local company that has long argued Denver doesn't need any more taxis.

"My take is, it's absurd, indefensible, and the cab drivers think it's corrupt," says Tom Russell, lawyer for the drivers attempting to start Mile High Cab. "It doesn't make a bit of sense to me." His clients claim the Denver taxi market is controlled by a few very powerful companies who can charge drivers whatever they like because the PUC refuses to let in new competition. Some of his clients, in a lawsuit filed last summer, also claimed that they also suffered abuse and discrimination at the hands of Yellow Cab managers; those concerns are being dealt with through arbitration.

Gomez, in a long-delayed decision last August, rejected a proposal by Russell's clients to start a company for themselves -- a rejection that the PUC commissioners supported. While Gomez found Mile High Cab financially fit to operate, he argued in his decision that Mile High's proposed 150 cabs would prove to be destructive to the existing cab carriers -- Yellow Cab, Metro Taxi, Freedom Cabs and Union Taxi -- because the market couldn't handle more taxis.

But now, he's decided otherwise for two other taxicab applications: a new company called Liberty Taxi, as well as Colorado Cab, a division of Yellow Cab, which currently has 300 taxis on Denver's streets -- and could get 150 more. As he noted in his decision,

"[The Mile High Cab rejection] relied on driver testimony as to overcrowding, that was due to the significant and substantial expert testimony that supported those anecdotal statements. That is not the case here. No expert testimony was provided regarding the public interest standard. Therefore, since each case stands on its own merits, such anecdotal evidence is difficult to accept here without supporting expert testimony or studies... [I do] not find it a necessary outcome that high customer volume areas such as downtown and Cherry Creek will suffer additional overcrowding by granting both applications."

Russell is especially perplexed because Yellow Cab has long opposed Mile High and other upstarts on the premise that Denver's taxi market is saturated. Brad Whittle, president of Colorado Cab, recently testified along those lines to the Colorado legislature as part of his opposition to a bill introduced by Senator Ted Harvey that would have loosened taxi regulations. That bill has since been voted down.

And in response to Westword queries last fall, Ruth Otte, executive vice president of marketing and communications for Veolia Transportation, the giant multinational transportation firm that owns Yellow Cab, penned a three-page response detailing the company's concerns about too many taxis in Denver. As she noted, there is an "over-supply of taxis in the Denver Metro market resulting in a depressive effect on taxi operator earnings and a number of other unintended consequences."

Later, when asked why Yellow itself was trying to expand by 150 cabs, she added, "The fact is that we do not necessarily believe the market needs or can support more permits, particularly not in the near term. But at the same time, if permits are being given out, we felt that to be competitive, we needed to apply."

As it turns out, that ended up being a good move for Yellow. But one question remains: Is Yellow Cab still worried about an over-supply of taxis in Denver?

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Michael Hancock donations from Metro Taxi payback for opposing Mile High Cab?" Follow Joel Warner on Twitter @joelmwarner

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11 comments
taxi cabs Oakland
taxi cabs Oakland

Competition is one factor that can greatly affect the taxi cab industry. Of course, we http://www.oaklandyellowcabs.com are hoping that nothing unacceptable happened although sometimes it is quite impossible. Anyway, we just hope concerns like this make the industry stronger and better.

Michael
Michael

This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!! Hasn't the PUC heard of a term called "competition"? How many McDonalds, Subway's, Pizza Hut's, Red Box's, American Furniture Warehouse, Sofa Mart, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Lazy Boy and so many other companies do you see around? It's called entreprenurism! It's called competition. So what if they find out there's not enough riders for the taxi's in Denver (which I seriously doubt)? Those that provide the best customer service will "make the cut" and the others that don't will just be "cut off"! Is Yellow Cab just that "yellow" at having competition?! If they provide good service and reasonable prices they don't have anything to worry about. I thought this was America and we believed in free enterprise! Sounds to me that PUC Judge Paul Gomez is taking bribes from Yellow Cab so that his decisions protect Yellow Cab. Perhaps PUC Judge Paul Gomez needs to be cut off from his job!!

Michael
Michael

This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!! Hasn't the PUC heard of a term called "competition"? How many McDonalds, Subway's, Pizza Hut's, Red Box's, American Furniture Warehouse, Sofa Mart, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Lazy Boy and so many other companies. It's called entreprenurism! So what if they find out there's not enough riders for the taxi's. Those that provide the best customer service will "make the cut" and the others will be just be "cut off"! Is Yellow Cab just that "yellow" at having competition?! If they provide good service and reasonable prices they don't have anything to worry about. I thought this was America and we believed in free enterprise! Sounds to me that PUC Judge Paul Gomez is taking money from Yellow Cab just so that he makes his decisions so they best effect Yellow Cab. Perhaps PUC Judge Paul Gomez needs to be cut off from his job.

cheeba
cheeba

“Each provider will utilize a digital dispatch system, which evidence [shows] allows the company to effectively position its cabs throughout the metro area, thus alleviating the issue of congestion,” Gomez wrote in his opinion." !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(( Wait, This judge needs to take a serious look at Yellow cab There are trips that wait HOURS in outer areas and even in downdown denver on busy nights like FAT TUESDAY coming up. Their drivers do NOt use OR trust the computer system yellow cab provides, and the retards behind the computer send messages to the cab drivers "HELP trip in area been waiting 2 hours OR take a look at Northern colorado Like i dont know bar rush? 3 hours wait times and so on, OH OH BOULDER people can tell about how freaking well this system works for them!

Mile high has dedicated its service to outer areas and not to filling downtown denver with its entire fleet, just like downtown boulder, downtown northern colorado cab drivers go where the people are, they have big big leases to pay each week and cant afford to risk a cent on the retard dispatch or the slow broken outdated system! ))

There is nothing state of the art about calls being canceled just to get them off of my screen. there is nothing state of the art about the credit card for 37.00 that was DECLINED at 4am 3 hours after i dropped the fare off, there is nothing state of the art about the communications center at yellow cab only taking 30-40 calls an hour 7 phone peple max servicing not only YOU but people from boulder northern Colorado Greeley longmont north glen Thornton aurora castle roock denver tech center cherry creek downtown denver college towns come the bleep on can you not see the amount of NON STATE OF THE ART DINOSAUR technology yellow cabs is working with?

Listen to 911 calls involving yellow cab dispatchers! Go back as far as 2008 you can hear them say "Im sorry, i can not tell where he is this exact moment i can hear them screaming at me and he is injured however my system is frozen at 1500 kalamath and your officers are there and well hes not? hold on, im so sorry .. OH wait there it goes he's at 1500 quebec st now!.. and it just gets worse

call yellow cab at a peak time of from an outskirt and see how long you wait, or what about the most dangerous thing drunk people are driving on the roads because they cant get a cab or don't want too deal with the cab drivers attitude or scenic route or over charge on their credit card or braking down while taking the taxi home or or or

there are some serious issues with yellow cabs system, and to read it called state of the art and to read this judge actually believes yellow is going to keep cabs out of downtown .. they do so well right now with the 300 they have huh? have you been downtown mister judge? cause i see yellow yellow yellow yellow metro at ever bar and hotel i pass! I also notice Metro have people in them MOST of the time and Yellows do not.

Cab drivers have to be where the people are they have to make big big money to pay big big lease why in the freak would they go where only SOME people are, instead of where LOTS of people are? there are going to be more and more angry yellow and metro drivers more and more fights at hotels and more people not using taxis because of the foul service..

I cant find who owns liberty, i see DOCS from 2009 when metro and yellow cab appealed but where did liberty cab from? is it even a group of drivers or just a rich guy who wants a new business? What the?

barbura
barbura

hello,it is true that I am in the right place to ask questions. I wonder if the PUC can answer my simple question.How did yellow cab get 150 more? How many new applications did the PUC recieved last two years? how many of the applicants have been denied ? competetion in all over the city is making yellow cab lose. Therefore, they are trying to get more cabs at DIA to lease for $970.00 a week.Drivers make 35 trips per week. when they work every day about 14 hrs a day. 35 X 50=$1750 per week. Now yellow cab is allowed only 47 cab at Dia. Do the math $970 per week X 47 cabs = $45590.00 per week. Imagin all of your cabs runing with the Dia lease? veolias will shawer money to anyone to have their dream come true. Big cab compnies tried many times last two years to get a contract from DIA. so far no one win a special only contract with Dia, but it will come the day where DIA becomes the only place where cab companies make their profit by charging high lease fees to drivers.

Cheeba
Cheeba

So Yellow cab gets 150 more cabs to add to its non operating system? Really? The same system that leaves people stranded for 2-5 hours the same system that does not approve credit card transactions in a even remotely timely manner ? the same system that is supporting northern Colorado and boulder area?

Wait, Can they're operation even handle 150 more taxi's? Yellow cab can not even support the calls they do take, let alone the calls they just dont take... wtf? Yellow cab gets too add 150 more broken, gas guzzling, jimmy rigged, 700.00 a week yellow cockroaches to the road, and..... veolias pockets get fatter and the drivers start dealing crack out of the taxi's to make ends meat?

And the people... still get to wait and fight over taxi's at 1:30am? ugh? Theres not too many cabs, there is just to many yellow and metro cabs! Is this yellows newest way of make all they're unaccounted for cabs, counted for???

Did any one see the 15% off coupons in the westword for Union taxi? Now thats a good taxi company give them the extra cabs! They already have a system which beats Yellow Hands down! I

Matt
Matt

It seems odd that Mile High didn't get any permits (the real story is why they didn't while the other new co Liberty did) but the apparent gain to Yellow is misunderstood. Yellow actually lost with any company getting authority. Fact is the new Liberty will drain off drivers from Yellow making the 150 that Yellow got just excess capacity. Yellow won't have the need for the 150 when close to that many will leave them and fill into Liberty. It's actually a terrible result for Veolia Yellow and may have been the PUC thinking they'd be fair to Yellow when in fact they put the screws to them...just as Yellow had testified would occur if any permits came out.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Strong take, Michael. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Passionate response. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

SteveDenver
SteveDenver

Drivers still have to pay the same lease, so the 15% comes out of their take.

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