Uber and Lyft — car services on demand — launched in Louisville in a single week before Derby. Then last week in “The Closing Bell,” we told you Charlotte, N.C.-based Taxi USA plans to bring a fleet of 100 new hybrid taxis to town.
Many locals have long complained Louisville is under-served when it comes to taxi service.
Michael Solomon, president of Taxi USA, said Taxi 7 “will increase the taxi business in Louisville,” adding that Taxi 7 “creates a buzz that taxis are not inconsistent.”
When asked how Uber and Lyft’s presence in the market might impact Taxi 7, Solomon questioned some legalities of those services. He also said those services are only available to a certain community — those with smartphones, because both are app-ordered only. Solomon said he considers taxis to be part of the mass-transit system and that the people who might use Taxi 7 every day might not be part of that community.
He also said he hasn’t seen many Uber or Lyft cars on the road in Louisville.
Taxi 7 has not yet applied with the state of Kentucky to start the permitting process for Jefferson County but plans to do so soon. Under state law, once the company applies, there is a 30-day waiting period during which anyone can appeal. (The only people who ever appeal are competitors, Solomon said, and thus far they’ve won every case because of the environmental benefits of a hybrid fleet. They are currently working through the appeal process in Boca Raton, Fla.)
The fleet that Taxi 7 proposes is 90 Ford C-Max cars and 10 Toyota Siennas outfitted with wheelchair capability. Typically Taxi 7 uses Toyota Priuses, but “Louisville is a Ford town,” said Solomon, who himself drives a Ford.
The C-Max’s back seat is bigger than that of a typical sedan used for taxi purposes — like a Crowne Victoria. The front seat is also bigger, which is better for driver comfort. “They’ll be the ones sitting for 10 hours a day,” Solomon said.
Solomon spoke a lot about how good Taxi 7 is for the drivers. He said he wants to “change driver culture” because “the best employees are happy employees.” (Drivers are actually independent contractors.) There are cameras in every car to protect the driver and the rider. Hybrid cars are not only good for the environment, he added, they’re pretty great on the driver’s pocketbook, too.
Taxi 7 provided the following statistics:
Taxi drivers typically drive 65,000 miles per year. The U.S. Department of Energy and Fueleconomy.gov show the following side by side comparisons for CO2 Emissions-
• 2005 Crown Victoria: 468 grams per mile x 65,000 miles x 90 cars = 2.7 billion grams of CO2 per year
• 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid: 209 grams per mile x 65,000 miles x 90 cars = 1.2 billion grams of CO2 per year
(reduction of 1.5 BILLION grams of CO2 emissions!)
Keeping the fleet new is a priority of Taxi 7. They’ll turn over their fleet every two to three years.
For people who do have smartphones, there is a Taxi 7 app where, like Uber and Lyft, you can order from the app and track your taxi as it travels. (You can also call or text for a cab.)
Taxi 7 cars also will be equipped with credit card machines in the back of the cab.
Solomon (whose grandparents were from Louisville) said his company is constantly looking for new cities, and some of the reasons Louisville made the cut included the city’s demographic, its growth and its “happy social life.” And while it’s great that there’s a lot of travel business in Louisville, he also looks for a city whose residents are under-serviced by transit.
And considering the American Lung Association gave us two big fat F’s this year for ozone and small particulates and that we’re the worst allergy city in the country, Solomon said hybrid cars are the only way to go.