According to frequent cab riders, a cab company official and the self-proclaimed “King o’ the Cabbies,” Ann Arbor is a prime place for the taxi business.
Area cab aficionados say the combination of a large population of students — both sober and drunk — and a relatively accessible licensing process has created somewhat of an oasis for taxicabs in an area of the country well known for its reliance on private vehicles.
According to Ann Arbor Police Officer Bill Clock, who works in AAPD’s Special Services Unit and is responsible for the licensing of taxis and their drivers, there are currently 166 licensed taxicabs in the city, as well as 310 licensed drivers.
In addition to the high volume of taxicabs, Clock said he’s seen a recent increase in limousines for hire, which operate on a flat rate instead of a meter.
James Fowler, assistant to the owner of Blue Cab, said Ann Arbor’s taxicab scene is especially vibrant for a place like southeast Michigan.
“There’s a population of about 120,000, plus another 80,000 kids,” Fowler said. “It’s a good market; (but) it’s a great market for this area.”
Blue Cab has approximately 50 drivers for its fleet of about 40 vehicles, which Fowler describes as “one of the two largest fleets in the area.” According to Fowler, the company generates about $1.5 million a year in profits.
Preston Woodward, a driver for Ann Arbor Yellow Cab, expressed similar positivity regarding the city’s market for taxis. Woodward’s business card denotes him as “King o’the Cabbies.”
“Clearly there’s a market, a big market for taxi cabs here,” Woodward said, adding that Ann Arbor’s demand for taxis allows for a variety of companies to co-exist in the area.
“There’s a lot of businesses to go around,” Woodward said.
Woodward also noted that Ann Arbor’s taxi license process allows for easy access into the taxi business.
“It’s very easy, and very inexpensive,” Woodward said.
With so much business to go around, many taxi companies and drivers develop personalities of their own to distinguish themselves. While waiting for customers in front of Hill Auditorium, Woodward plays the accordion. The Lady “M” Sedan Transportation Services driver known as “Mustang Sally” – Mryna Ismail – has decorated the exterior of her cab with pictures of mustangs, and often plays the song that inspired her nickname.
LSA freshman Sami Hayek, a frequent taxi rider, said she has a specific driver she calls when she needs a ride. Hayek said she thinks students are comfortable taking taxis around the city because Ann Arbor taxi drivers are particularly aware of students’ transportation needs.
“I think they are very in tune with (the fact that) kids that need to get around and don’t necessarily have cars,” Hayek said.
Hayek also noted that taxi drivers are particularly convenient for students that may have consumed alcohol.
“Drivers are aware that kids may be drinking and (do) a good service by giving them a safe ride home,” Hayek said.
According to the website of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, taxis may not be hailed from a curb, but are often available for hire at popular landmarks throughout Ann Arbor.