Sitting in his cramped office on North Street, surrounded by hunting trophies that include a stuffed turkey, Yellow Cab Co. owner Larry Bushey insists that if the City Council makes good on its proposal to require meters in Burlington taxi cabs, he’ll abandon the city.
“I’m telling you right now, flat out, I will not run meters,” Bushey said Thursday.
He says he’ll be fine without Burlington, if it comes to that.
“I’ve been in this business since I had hair,” Bushey said. “I got my first cab license in 1976. All my adult life I’ve been in this, I know what I’m doing.”
The city began looking into taxi regulations two years ago, said City Councilman Vincent Dober, chairman of the License Committee, because of the volume of complaints it was seeing. A 43-page cab ordinance was sent by the council Monday night to the Ordinance Committee for further study that could last until June.
“I’ve been working on it for 18 months,” Dober said Thursday. “There’s not a company out there we don’t get complaints about.”
Paul Robar, who owns the other major taxi company operating 24/7 in Burlington, Benways Transportation, seconded Bushey’s threat to pull out.
“Everybody says, ‘You’re afraid of meters,’” Robar said. “I own 40 of them. A meter is nothing more than an instrument that measures distance and time and puts them into a calculation that comes up with money.”
Robar claims taxi customers will rue the day the city goes to metering because it will cost them.
In the zone
Currently, charges are based on zones with minimum and maximum charges established by the city — flat rates that don’t vary according to what route a driver follows or whether a driver is sitting at a red light. With meters, Robar said, if he hits four red lights en route to a destination, the charges keep on mounting while he sits, as opposed to the flat rate, which remains the same no matter what.
According to Bushey, the problem is not with Yellow Cab or Benways, but with the independent drivers who have proliferated in the past five years or so. Robar says there are some 217 taxis plying the streets of Burlington today, compared to fewer than 100 a decade ago.