Taxicab ruling: Mile High Cab wins Supreme Court case, gets another shot at licenses
The 2011 feature "Mean Streets" described allegations of discrimination and abuse at Yellow Cab, the city's oldest taxi company, as well as detailing taxi drivers' inability to find alternatives because the state's Public Utilities Commission made it nearly impossible to start new cab companies. But Denver could be one step closer to a new taxi operation thanks to a Colorado Supreme Court decision yesterday that found the PUC didn't have adequate reason to deny a 2010 application for 150 licenses by local drivers to start Mile High Cab.
More photos below.
Cabdriver Edem "Archie" Archibong, a driving force behind Mile High Cab, is excited about the Supreme Court decision. But he adds, "These thoughts are long overdue. Everyone in Denver knew the PUC messed up. Royally."
Under Colorado law, taxis are a regulated and protected public service. That's why for years, entrepreneurs behind a potential new cab company who wanted to get a license had to prove to the PUC that there was a public need for their service and that they wouldn't put existing operators out of business. This is an extremely high bar; over the past half century, only two new cab companies have been permitted to operate in Denver.
Courtesy Mile High Cab blogspot Edem "Archie" Archibong.
In 2008, state legislation shifted the burden of proof to existing cab companies, which would have to show conclusively that the market couldn't bear new companies to block one from starting. It seemed the perfect time for drivers to apply to launch Mile High Cab.
But in August 2009, Paul Gomez, a PUC administrative law judge, rejected Mile High's application -- and the PUC commissioners agreed. 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 in March 2011, the argument didn't stop Gomez from approving 300 other Denver cabs -- 150 for a new company called Liberty Taxi, and 150 for a Colorado Cab, a division of Yellow Cab, which had long opposed Mile High and other upstarts on the premise that Denver's taxi market is saturated.
At the time, Yellow Cab was in the midst of legal arbitration over a lawsuit that claimed the company had discriminated against 21 past and present Yellow Cab drivers, all African immigrants. Among other things, the original lawsuit claimed Yellow Cab supervisors called them "nigger," "African monkey," "dumb African," "crazy Somali" and "animal." In March 2012, the arbitrator concluded the drivers had been seen "as inferior...from an inferior country located in an inferior continent," and found in their favor -- to the tune of more than $1.3 million.
Continue for more about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.