Cab Co-op Starts Its Engines

Union-backed franchise launches with 30 drivers

Taxi Drivers Association of Austin board members Dave Passmore (l), Nega Taddesse, and Hassan Aruri (Photo by John Anderson)

As of Wednesday, ATX Co-op Taxi is in business. If you see a bright green taxi shuttling around the city this weekend, that's a car from the co-op. Nega Taddesse, a representative from the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin, which spearheaded efforts to get a co-op up and running in the city, said that initial deployment should be 30 cabs, with another 150 going online in October, and potentially 400 by December.

Auto body painters around the city should get busy.

The co-op's implementation into the city's transportation framework means that Austin will carry four taxi franchises for the first time since the Nineties; this comes during an era in which the cab business is in trouble. Though Austin's citizens rooted out Lyft and Uber in May (or however the two companies would like to spin it), the wealth of transportation network companies that have popped up locally since the two behemoths' departures indicates a civic shift toward the new options.

Co-op cabs will operate on standard city taxi fares – $2.50 for the first sixth of a mile plus an additional $.40 for each ensuing sixth of a mile – and plans to pick up rides both through old-fashioned streetside hailing and via its app, Cabit, a product of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Taddesse says the co-op hopes to provide riders with "what taxis don't provide – technology – and what TNCs can't provide": flagging, cash transactions, and options for those who don't own smartphones.

The city's Transportation Department ran an inspection on the co-op's Cameron Road office on Monday to check dispatch coordination, record keeping, and other issues required by city ordinance, and last week verified to the Chronicle that the co-op will have insurance. (Drivers with clean records expect to pay $53 per week.) That should quiet representatives from at least two of the three tenured cab companies around the city. In the weeks prior to the co-op's installation, drivers working for Yellow Cab were graced with messages from the franchise questioning the co-op's insurance policy and premiums. Austin Cab general manager Ron Means has spent much of the past week pestering city staffers and employees at AmTrust Insurance Company of Kansas to verify that the policy is in place.

"In my company I have to comply with the city's standards and negotiations, and I would hope others will do the same," Means said on Tuesday after noting the co-op's insurance policy.

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ATX Co-op Taxi, Nega Taddesse, Taxi Drivers Association of Austin, cabs, Austin Transportation Department, Yellow Cab, Austin Cab, Cabit

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