The coronavirus pandemic, along with a nudge from Uber and Lyft, has brought an end to one of Boise’s oldest taxi companies.
Boise City Taxi and its fleet of distinctive green taxicabs, which began serving the Treasure Valley in 1992, will end service at the end of the day Thursday, Dec. 23. It’s growing increasingly hard to attract new drivers, and ride-sharing services have taken a huge bite out of business, co-owner Steve McCurdy said.
“The labor shortage is really a determining factor,” McCurdy said by phone. “It’s just so you just can’t get the labor to take care of what needs to be done.”
Six years ago, before Uber and Lyft got established in the Boise area, Boise City Taxi and its 35 taxis, including five vans equipped to transport wheelchairs, handled 7,000 calls a week. Today, the company has 13 taxis, and call volume has slipped to 2,500 calls per week.
Where Boise City Taxi once received 25 calls a day for service at the Grove Hotel, today calls from the downtown hotel may number only three a week.
“We still do a good business, but it’s a changing industry,” he said. “That’s just simply because people order their own Uber or Lyft.”
Taxi drivers no longer want to drive for eight to 12 hours, he said, making it more difficult to hire. With Uber or Lyft, drivers have the freedom to choose their own hours.
“Drivers want to go do GrubHub or all these different delivery-type things where they can just kind of go in and out,” he said. “If you’re an Uber driver, you can go drive for two hours, and then you can go on to do something else.”
Even as business has slipped, there are times when Boise City Taxi, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau , can’t handle all of its calls. The company turns to the same place others do: Uber and Lyft.
“We spend a ton of money just to have Uber and Lyft help us out,” McCurdy said. “Uber and Lyft facilitate things well. It’s a brilliant idea, but they do not pay their drivers enough.”
He said Uber and Lyft drivers earn about half of what taxi drivers do. And if they’re between rides, the ride-sharing drivers are covered by their personal auto insurance. Uber and Lyft policies cover drivers only when they’re picking up passengers or driving them to their destination, he said..
While Boise City Taxi is one of about 40 taxi companies registered with the city of Boise, most focus on Boise Airport transportation, McCurdy said. Boise City Taxi takes passengers to a wide range of destinations.
“It’s people getting their groceries done, going shopping, going out for dinner, going to the airport,” he said. “It’s anything you can think of where somebody has to go from Point A to Point B and they don’t have transportation. Or maybe they’re thinking ahead, where they’re going out for drinks and they don’t want that temptation of driving home.”
The cab company also picks up a number of passengers or drops them off at area hospitals, retirement centers and nursing homes. McCurdy expects several of his drivers, even after the company shuts down, to continue handling some of those transports on their own.
“They’ll probably end up with a half-a-dozen drivers versus the 40 drivers we have now,” he said.
At the peak a few years ago, Boise City Taxi had 90 drivers, he said.
McCurdy said he feels bad about his company’s loyal customers, who stuck with Boise City Taxi even when they could have gone to their smartphone and ordered through Uber or Lyft.
“I feel bad for our customers, because they’re not going to be served quite as well,” McCurdy said. “But we couldn’t serve them quite as well, either.”