News

Taxi companies say: 'No fare'

Application by A Orange Cab to pick up fares in Palo Alto is contested

Concerned that a new taxi service wants to horn in on their business, drivers from two cab companies that service Palo Alto showed up at a public hearing Wednesday (June 29) to oppose an application by A Orange Cab Company of Santa Clara.

At times chaotic and noisy, the meeting focused on whether A Orange Cab owner Jorawar Singh could prove that the city needs a third taxi service, that additional cabs would not create traffic or parking problems and that Singh has enough work experience.

Singh's team, which included two attorneys and a translator, produced five letters from individuals and businesses stating that a need for more taxicabs does indeed exist in Palo Alto. Though not in attendance at the hearing, Barbara Gross, general manager of the Garden Court Hotel on Cowper Street, asserted that increased competition wouldn't hurt.

"We find that there are times that we call for reservations and the taxi doesn't show up," she said.

In response, drivers from Yellow Checker and California Cab -- the only companies with permits to pick up fares in Palo Alto -- stood up to testify, often out of turn. They said that no demand exists for another taxi service and that increased competition would hurt their business significantly. Palo Alto Police Officer Louis Amadeo called for order several times and once threatened to clear the room of the 30 attendees.

Dave Logan, operations manager at Yellow Checker, said that his company received an average of 177 calls per day from Palo Alto in May and 232 in June, as of June 28. Dividing that number among his 120 drivers means there's not much work for each one, he said, though he failed to note how many of those drivers were in Palo Alto at any given time. Logan also produced a statement from the general manager of the Sheraton Hotel on El Camino Real, which he called the most important taxi magnet in the city, stating that no excess need exists.

Logan and many of his drivers also complained of "bandit cabs" that operate in the city illegally and further decrease demand for certified companies like his own. However, the police department has found bandit cabs to be "not a real problem," according to Heather Johnson, code-enforcement officer for the city.

According to the Palo Alto Municipal Code, certified taxi companies in the city must offer 24-hour service, respond to requests as soon as possible and submit to annual vehicle inspections. Drivers must be licensed, drug-free and eligible to work in the United States. Signage, advertisements, taximeters, receipts, insurance and solicitation practices are also subject to strict regulations. A non-refundable application fee of $1,750 accompanies the documentation.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for applicants lies in the section of the code entitled "Proof of public convenience and necessity." The section states that applicants have the burden of proving three points: first, that a public demand exists for their services, or at least that through them, public service will be improved. Second, applicants must prove that they have sufficient experience and assets to handle the work properly, and finally, they must prove that their operations will not increase traffic or parking problems appreciably.

Johnson said that new cab companies begin the application process from time to time, but Singh's is the first to reach the final hearing stage in about two years.

A Orange Cab currently operates in San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, all of which are heavily regulated, and Menlo Park, Atherton and Redwood City, which are not.

Singh began driving in 1999, and started A Orange Cab in 2004 with one car. He now owns 27 taxis, seven of which he said he plans to send to Palo Alto if he receives the permit. Singh listed only $22,000 in assets on his application, however, which the city and the opposing cab companies both found potentially problematic, especially if Singh must replace any of his seven Palo Alto-bound vehicles, each of which have logged more than 150,000 miles.

Bikram Singh, owner of California Cab, said: "I started a cab company 20 years ago and was rejected five or six times by the City of Palo Alto. I had more assets than that, but they said it wasn't enough."

Yellow Checker Cab, which operates both the Yellow Cab and Checker Cab lines, and California Cab are based in San Jose.

Singh's attorneys encouraged the city to allow the free market to function, especially for a family man with a good business reputation.

But the numerous current taxi drivers who say their jobs are in jeopardy have a different perspective. John Winters, who has been picking up fares in Palo Alto since 1979, said: "The point is that if we can't survive as individual drivers, we're going to start dropping off. We're going to go find something else to do."

Amadeo is expected to make his decision on the issue next week.

Comments

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm

We needed a taxi to the airport during the holidays. We called a local taxi company the night before and arranged for pickup.

A half-hour before pickup, the taxi called and cancelled on us. So, we desperately sought another taxi service. We finally found one...but for more than twice the cost. We arrived to the airport late...but at least we made the flight.

Another company might fill the hole for situations like that.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Anyone who meets the minimum standards for safety should be allowed to operate in Palo Alto. By what act of hubris does any one company "deserve" Palo Alto's business? Do we owe coffee shops or gas stations a profit? Tough if anyone can't make a profit. That's life.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

We need more taxi services in Palo Alto!!! It would be correct to increase competition and service as they are very poor now.
After multiple terrible service to/from SFO we refuse to use a taxi here unless absolutely necessary (this is now very rare though we fly out of SFO a lot). ANY other way to the airport is better. This is ridiculous and I feel sorry for travelers staying at Palo Alto hotels, too.
Experiences follow one stated above (reserved taxi doesn't show/international flight siutation)- multiple experiences; outrageous cost; filthy taxi/unsafe driving (this was FROM SFO down to Palo Alto). The distance from SFO to PA is not that great yet they charge outrageous rates then demand a tip.
Taxi services here are not anywhere consistent with other metropolitan areas we are familiar with (not to mention, other countries' taxi services, in my spouse's business travel experience)
I was recently in a major city and rode taxiis multiple times without issues.
Just thought I'd share that-
I was waiting to pick up a family member at SFO Wed. night and the cell phone waiting lot was packed. What I might guess it that some of the passengers I and others were waiting to pick up would take taxiis if they were at all reasonable.


Posted by Yes on More Cabs, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I also agree that the taxi service in Palo Alto is absolutely horrible.

Case in point, a couple of years ago, I was scheduled for
outpatient surgery at Stanford Hospital. I had three young kids at home. I had to be at the hospital by 6am to prep for surgery. I would not be able to drive myself back home post-surgery.

With only one car, our only option was to call a cab. When the dispatcher (the cab driver himself?) asked me where I was going and realized that it was such a short distance, he paused, and then rudely responded, "Call me in the morning" and hung up on me! Of course, I couldn't trust that he would honor the request that morning. When I called the other cab company, nobody answered my call.

In the end, we had no choice but to ask a friend to drive me to the hospital.

The two existing cab companies are a joke. They need some serious competition.


Posted by ADodson, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm

This is a tough issue but I'm sure PAPD Officer Amadeo will make the right decision....Why is Officer Amadeo proceeding over this hearing anyways?


Posted by Mike, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 1, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I agree with Dodson - for real! I want papd to come up in my office and preside over meetings, so run and tell that!


Posted by Ben Colorado, a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Will, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2011 at 12:07 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Mike, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 2, 2011 at 12:30 am

I must say, this Officer Amadeo is sounding more and more like an amazing public servant. How does one make a commendation of this fine employee? And more importantly, why is he only a mere officer? This talents deserves recognition and immediate promotion - at least to a commander level!


Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

I agree with the comments above saying that the taxi service in Palo Alto could be improved.
We need increased availability and reliability.
Clean taxis and drivers would also be a benefit!
Perhaps a little more competition would help...


Posted by Let-The-Market-Work, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

> According to the Palo Alto Municipal Code, certified taxi companies
> in the city must offer 24-hour service, respond to requests as soon
> as possible and submit to annual vehicle inspections.

No doubt the legislative history for these requirements does not exist. So, these become arbitrary, government-imposed restrictions to a legitimate business that can not be justified.

There is no reason that the cab company should have to provide 230-hour service, any more than a food store, or a dry-cleaning operation should have to provide round-the-clock service.

> Drivers must be licensed, drug-free and eligible to work in
> the United States.

Ok .. this makes sense.

> Signage, advertisements, taximeters,
> receipts, insurance and solicitation practices are also
> subject to strict regulations.

Why should Palo Alto have any right to "regulate" at this level. It would make sense to have any such regulation at the State level, so that the business model, and the expectations of people who avail themselves of cab transportation will expect to be treated the same, state-wide.

The whole process is another bad "Palo Alto joke". The whole premise that the City is going to "regulate" a business it knows knowing repeats itself time and again in this city. Presumably a police office, with no knowledge of the number of cab rides paid for into the city, and out of the city, on a daily basis, is going to issue a permit, or not, based on what?

Without at least some baseline of provable data, like the call logs of every cab company operating in the greater Bay Area, then how does this police office have any knowledge with which to make a decision?

For instance, several posters have pointed out that there are delays, and cancellations, when trying to book a cab in Palo Alto. So, how long is the typical delay, say on a 15-minute window?

It would be better to make certain that the safety, and insurance, licensing issues are handled by the State (perhaps through the local county government), and get Palo Alto City Government out of the picture.


Posted by Cynic, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Any carrier with $5 million liability insurance should be allowed to operate a taxi service. Of course, they must comply with state laws which, for example, require a chauffeur's license with its special rules. Let the insurance company mandate inspections and other safety-related restrictions.

The conditions that the City imposes are all anti-consumer and anti-competitive.

We need UberCab in Palo Alto! It's a twenty-first century transportation system.


Posted by Correction, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 2, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Palo Alto Weekly staff member Jeff Carr made an error in his report. Louis Amadeo is not, nor has he ever been, a Palo Alto Police Officer. He is the hearing officer for the City of Palo Alto and works for the City Clerk.


Posted by narnia, a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm

About 2 years ago when I still lived in PA, my ride to Caltrain to catch Bart to SFO on a sunday had to cancel because an emergency and I had to call a local taxi company. It was nearly impossible to persuade them to pick me up- they wanted me to have called the night before (how was I to know?) and when they finally came 1/2 hour after they said they would, the the american- as-apple pie driver didn't quite know how to get to the station. I barely made it to the train after an exasperating and very expensive taxi ride in which the driver confessed that they don't like it when you don't book in advance. Yes, there is a need for another taxi company, preferably one with good prompt service and polite drivers who know their way around and can pick you up at the drop of a hat if there is availability. It's a taxi, not a limo, so service should be around the clock. I would love to have a choice of company and I would welcome Orange cab to the area.


Posted by Ben Colorado, a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Nothing-Ever-changes-In-This-Town, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2011 at 8:19 am

Some things never change in this town. The following story, date 27 Jan 1999, can be found on the Weekly's Archive:

Web Link

Unlike the current story, which is pretty devoid of any meaningful information, the 1999 version has a lot of interesting/useful data that helps to better understand this issue from the point of view of the cab owners, downtown business owners, and passengers.

From the 1999 story:

Roger Barnes, owner of Mountain View-based Ace Cab Co. of the Peninsula, said Palo Alto's taxicab licensing process is too strict.

"You have to make a marketing case to prove that the city requires another cab company," Barnes said. "That's unheard of in the United States. Even in the airline industry, it's not a requirement. That's ensuring there's always going to be a monopoly."
----

And then there is this interesting bit of information--

Schweitzer, a former dispatcher for the Palo Alto Police Department, has owned Yellow Cab since 1991. His company--which also serves Mountain View, Los Altos and Stanford--has had a monopoly in town since 1995. At that time, Merit Taxi pulled out because the city raised the amount of liability coverage that cab companies must carry.
---

One can only wonder if the former Police Dispatcher was given some special consideration by raising the bar to drive out Merit Taxi?

So, did the City use any data about taxi cab accidents in Palo Alto to set the liability insurance requirement? It's hard to believe that taxis aren't involved in traffic accidents sooner-or-later, but what is the incidence here in Palo Alto? Or even the incidence of traffic tickets given to taxis for moving violations?

Another Palo Alto mess ..


Posted by painful, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

It is painful to see that nothing can be changed in this town,but think of it the other way, this is exactly what keeps this town unique and as a place that everyone wants to live here in bay area,safe sound quiet and peaceful.


Posted by Confused, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 3, 2011 at 8:06 pm

@painful--how do taxis make things less safe? Because they are not safe drivers? They have stricter licenses than the rest of us; they are safer than teenage, tired, drunk, texting, on the phone, unlicensed, injured, or inexperienced drivers.

As for quiet and peaceful...another tax company isn't going to start laying down the horn at every stop sign. That's a bad business model. If taxi service in Palo Alto is so terrible (I wouldn't know), then perhaps Orange Cab simply sees a market in need for a good taxi company.

Personally, I think if companies compete, consumers win. Bring in more taxi companies.


Posted by painful, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jul 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

PA should be like another LAH


Posted by Nancy, a resident of another community
on Jul 5, 2011 at 10:39 am

A Orange Cab Inc. was issued the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity on July 5, 2011.


Posted by California Cab Co. Palo Alto, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 5, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Hello Guys
California Cab Co. Palo Alto is new in town and we welcome any or all of your business.

Thanks


Posted by lucy, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by shernal, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Bob, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 5, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Why is this even a city issue? I can see cities as large as San Jose, San Francisco, or Oakland controlling permits in their cities, but otherwise it should be a county decision with taxis required to serve entire counties.


Posted by Kawal, a resident of Stanford
on Jul 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm

So, A Orange Cab Inc. got the permit and I just want you to know their service is great. Call them at 408-733-0900 or reserve a taxi at www.taxiservicebayarea.com


Posted by I Live AND Work In Palo Alto, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm

"And then there is this interesting bit of information--

Schweitzer, a former dispatcher for the Palo Alto Police Department, has owned Yellow Cab since 1991. His company--which also serves Mountain View, Los Altos and Stanford--has had a monopoly in town since 1995. At that time, Merit Taxi pulled out because the city raised the amount of liability coverage that cab companies must carry.

One can only wonder if the former Police Dispatcher was given some special consideration by raising the bar to drive out Merit Taxi?

So, did the City use any data about taxi cab accidents in Palo Alto to set the liability insurance requirement? It's hard to believe that taxis aren't involved in traffic accidents sooner-or-later, but what is the incidence here in Palo Alto? Or even the incidence of traffic tickets given to taxis for moving violations?

Another Palo Alto mess ..."

Seriously...why is it up the City of Palo Alto which cab company the Residents of PA use? I've never lived in a city where you can only call certain cab companies...that's outrageous to say the least.

I will continue to call the same cab company that I have used for the last seven years (for work or personal use). I know that they WILL show up at the drop of a dime and ALWAYS have a car available for service...regardless of the fact that they are not "approved" by the City of PA.

That's like telling me I can't shop at the Safeway in Menlo Park, that I can only shop at the Safeway in Palo Alto...seriously?? The Safeway in Palo Alto is less than 1/2 the size of the one in Menlo Park...which is why I often shop there, instead of Palo Alto Safeway.

I wish a cab would call and cancel?? What is that about???


Posted by Willy Osa, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Sorry this comments might come too late. I for the opinion that there should be more taxi cabs in Palo Alto. All these major taxi companies up here a nousance to the community because of their racist setup. The are all Indias and had monopolize the transportation business in silocon valley for years. Most of their taxi cabs a used cars that they pick up from auto autions and put on the roads for innocent riders. The owners are crafty business people who are very craffy in their bookkeepping methods. More better taxi cabs are needed in Palo Alto. No more monopoly. Thanks.


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