The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

100 New Taxis on Tap?

By Amy Smith, November 21, 2003, News

A start-up taxi company is revved to compete with the Big Three -- Roy's Taxi, American Yellow Checker Cab Co., and Austin Cab Co. -- but first needs the City Council's blessing on what would be the first taxi franchise to emerge locally in a couple of decades. The franchise proposal returns to the agenda today (Thursday) for first reading only, after the council delayed action in July while city staff tried to hammer out an agreement between stakeholders. The franchise idea isn't an easy sell, given the opposition of existing companies and a down economy that leaves cabs idling for long periods.

The new outfit, Lone Star Cab Co., would operate as a co-op in which drivers would have an ownership stake in the company and pay weekly fees based on the economic climate. The company seeks 100 taxicab permits from the city, which existing companies oppose based on the current dip in demand.

The council will weigh its decision based on two different proposals, one from the staff and the other from Lone Star. The staff proposal would establish a method for annually reserving a percentage of new permits and creating a pool of permits that would be allotted to new franchise applicants. Lone Star proposes a portable, or transferable, permit. For example, if a Roy's Taxi driver were to leave that company to work for Lone Star, the permit would transfer with the driver, theoretically avoiding the problem of more cabs on the streets than customers.

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