Madison may soon have a new cab company. Schmidt's Towing is starting Green Cab of Madison, which will use hybrid Toyota Prius cars and purports to be cheaper than any other cab company here.
"Everybody seems to be jumping on the bandwagon," says company co-owner Mike Schmidt. "Once we open up you'll see all these other companies buying Priuses. It'll be a good thing for Madison."
According to the company's business plan (PDF), Green Cab will start with 10 Priuses (and one van) and expand to 20 Priuses by the end of the year.
"All the cars have bike racks on them too," Schmidt adds. "So you can ride your bike to work and we can take you home, if it's raining."
Green Cab won't use a standard meter to charge fares, but will instead use the zone map approach, charging $3 for the first zone and $1 for each additional zone the car travels through. The company will also promote ride sharing, asking riders to share a cab when possible.
According to Green Cab's business plan, local cab ridership is rising: "In 2009, Union Cab had 601,261 riders, compared with 598,042 for Badger Cab and 407,080 riders for Madison Taxi."
But other cab companies wonder whether the city can support a fourth cab company. Tom Royston, general manager of Badger Cab, says, "I don't think there is enough business for another cab company most of the time, but some of the time, there is. Much of the year, we have a lot of cabs sitting on the lot. But I wish them all the best. A little competition can be a good thing for everybody."
Royston adds that Badger cabs have used clean burning propane fuel for 30 years.
Karl Schulte, general manager of Union Cab, which just put its first Prius on the road Tuesday, agrees that another cab company will crowd the market. "During the rush hours we can use more cabs, but during the slow hours, it's going to be tough for everyone."
Schmidt says he hopes to grow the market: "We're going after people who don't ride cabs right now. A lot of our advertisements will be to bring in new riders."
If Green Cab's application is approved by the city's Transit and Parking Commission and then the Madison Common Council, it would be the first new cab company in Madison since 1986.
Keith Pollack, who reviewed Green Cab's application for the city's traffic engineering department, says the city doesn't consider whether a new application might affect current cab companies. But, he adds, the company's application "makes an argument" that Madison can support another one.