News

Taxicab controversy: Mayor Bill Vidal asks PUC to nix 300 divisive new cabs

The fight over how many taxicabs to allow in Denver, detailed in the November feature "Mean Streets," took a strange turn in March. After rejecting taxi drivers' application to start Mile High Cab because he said the market was saturated, PUC Judge Paul Gomez green-lit 300 other new Denver cabs, including 150 for Yellow Cab, a powerful local firm that's long said Denver doesn't need more taxis. Now, Mayor Bill Vidal is arguing those cabs shouldn't hit the streets.

While Gomez may have given his blessing to the 300 new taxis, they aren't officially authorized until the three-member Public Utilities Commission considers "exceptions" submitted in response to the ruling. And earlier this month, just such an exception was filed by the mayor's office -- a letter from Vidal on view below urging the PUC not to approve any additional taxis.

But Vidal's reasons for doing so weren't tied to many of the concerns that have come up with Gomez's March ruling. Such as that Mile High Cab representatives first sought approval for their company in 2008, when the rules about starting new companies were considerably more lax, and had to wait nearly two years for Gomez eventual rejection. Or that Gomez, in granting other, later taxi applications, argued each case had to be considered individually, thereby ignoring his own ruling that Denver didn't need any more taxis. Or that Yellow Cab, before it scored additional taxis, had long lobbied against allowing in more cabs, with company spokesperson Ruth Otte telling Westword there is an "over-supply of taxis in the Denver Metro market resulting in a depressive effect on taxi operator earnings and a number of other unintended consequences."

No, Vidal's letter doesn't bring up any of those facts. Instead, the mayor notes that the four existing Denver taxi companies and other stakeholders such as the DIA representatives and hotel operators recently launched a Hotel/Taxi Task Force, which is developing a code of conduct for all Denver taxis. Until that process is complete, Vidal asked the PUC not to add in other issues, "especially one as divisive and explosive as additional taxis."

Vidal's got that right: Adding taxis to this town is as divisive and explosive as it gets. Unfortunately, coming up with a code of conduct may not be enough to quell the problems.

Here's his letter:

Taxi cab applications: Denver Mayor Bill Vidal's letter to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Michael Hancock donations from Metro Taxi payback for opposing Mile High Cab?"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner