Pete Salcido, dispatch manager, helps Rachel McCaslin with a call into the American Cab dispatch center. American Cab is teaming with Walter Clark Legal Group to offer free rides in the Coachella Valley during the Fourth of July holiday. (Photo: J. Omar Ornelas/ The Desert Sun)
American Cab of the Coachella Valley has acquired Pomona Valley Yellow Cab, bringing 50 new dispatch center jobs to its Thousand Palms headquarters.
The deal also adds 150 cabs to the 70 that American Cab currently operates in the Coachella Valley.
“We’re hiring about five people a day. We’re almost there (to 50 hires), though,” American Cab owner Greg Klibanov said. “Everything is staying the same as far as drivers go, but we merged dispatch in Thousand Palms.”
Because of American Cab’s franchise agreement with SunLine Transit Agency and its regulatory administration, the 150 cabs the company acquired will stay in greater Pomona for now.
SunLine has not yet discussed revising the franchising agreement, which was put into place in 2009. However, SunLine taxi administrator Mike Jones said he would be open to changes.
“We haven’t discussed anything to that nature yet,” Jones said. “As SunLine Transit and SunLine Regulatory (Administration), we are looking for opportunities to expand not only our taxicab service, but our fixed-route service. We’re looking at options. It would be wonderful for our franchises to be able to expand if they chose to.”
The purchase followed American Cab’s signing of a $3.6 million contract with the Pomona Valley Transit Authority, which authorizes operations for San Dimas Dial-a-Cab, Claremont Dial-a-Ride, and the Get About pass and Ready Now programs. Together, these operations provide about 90,000 rides a year.
In the Coachella Valley, American provides about 250,000 rides a year.
American Cab will continue to employ around 150 Pomona Valley Yellow Cab drivers, but cab requests via phone calls and the taxicab app “Curb” will be processed at the Thousand Palms office.
Bracing for festival season
Even if American cannot expand its local fleet permanently, Klibanov hopes the extra cabs can support the huge ridership increase that comes each April with the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals.
Last year, Klibanov said his company contracted with around 100 cab drivers from throughout southern California to service the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals. SunLine issued the extra drivers conditional use permits, which required them to follow the taxi administration’s fare and conduct rules while providing them access to the huge festival customer base.
“Last year we brought in over 100 cabs to be able to compete with Uber, because it’s just too much business all at one time,” Klibanov said. “We’re planning to do the same thing this year.”
However, he expects at least 100 extra drivers.
“We’re hoping to have at least that many this year, because demand is so high,” Jones said. “It almost feels like we could bring in a thousand taxicabs and still not have enough to meet the demand of the customers.”
Yellow Cab of the Desert brought in about 15 extra drivers in 2014 to supplement its fleet of 65 cabs. They’re working with two cab companies this year and hope to increase that number, according to general manager Michal Brock.
Much like last year, Desert City Cab does not plan to contract with any drivers outside the desert during festival season.
“We didn’t want to take rides away from our local drivers,” said general manager Marc Triplett.
However, Triplett said Desert City Cab is in talks with a local shuttle service. The shuttle company would provide around 10 12-passenger shuttles to ferry people from the Empire Polo Club to large hotels like the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Desert and the Riviera in Palm Springs.
Desert City Cab is working with SunLine on a list of flat rates for service to their selected hotels.
Yellow Cab of the Desert also is looking into shuttle services, Brock said.
SunLine requires taxi drivers to charge $3.12 per mile or less. That rate could increase or decrease during the festivals, Jones said, but by no more than a few cents.
Surge pricing — the policy of increasing prices when demand is high, practiced by ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft — is not permitted by SunLine. Taxi drivers also are not allowed to give rides without running their meters.
Rosalie Murphy covers business and consumer affairs at The Desert Sun. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @rozmurph.