A recent issue of BW caught the eye of the Boise City Clerk's Office, because a "Top Seven" list referred to "Boise City Cabs We've Never Heard Of" (BW, Eight Days Out, April 30, 2008). After hearing from some enraged cabbies, the clerk's office wanted BW and its readers to know that those companies were legit.
But there's good reason for being dizzied by a proliferation of cabs: Boise has more than 150 licensed cab companies, according to the clerk's office. That's for a metro area that, according to the 2000 Census, has about 464,840 people.
"You may not have heard of them, but they are all licensed within the city of Boise," said Wendy Burrows-Johnson, deputy city clerk with the City of Boise.
"It blows me away," said Mike Murphy, a supervisor at one of the city's largest companies, Boise City Taxi.
Getting a taxi license from the city isn't hard—there are hurdles to jump, but none of them is much worse than registering a vehicle or getting a new driver's license.
In Salt Lake City, where surrounding area population is about 1.2 million, the city has licensed a mere three taxicab companies, according to Jeff Mehr, who works in the Salt Lake City Department of Community and Economic Development.
"That's all we've got," Mehr said.
In Portland, where the metropolitan area holds more than 2 million people, there are six taxicab companies, according to the City of Portland's Department of Revenue. In Seattle, four "licensed associations" manage the taxi needs for the more than 2 million people who live in that area.
Craig Leisy, who works in Seattle's Consumer Affairs Office, said he wasn't surprised to see such a herd of cabs in a city the size of Boise's.
"As you get to smaller cities, there's less regulations on rates and entry," Leisy said. Seattle, at one point, was in this boat. But, he said, as cities grow, they tend to need more consumer protection measures.
"What we found out is that if you have too many cars, you run into problems," Leisy said. Those issues include a lack of a centralized dispatch, a lost and found department, safety management, or reliability of the companies.
"There will always be good independent operators," Leisy said. "That's not enough to leave the system that way."
The Boise clerk's office did say, after a records request from BW, that some companies have cars that are out of compliance. In all, 12 individual cars—not the entire company—are out of compliance now. These include cars from ABC Taxi (Nos. 48, 66 and 216), Amin Taxi (Nos. 16 and 73), Ljiljan Taxi (No. 125, HakunaMatata (No. 128), Liberty Express (No. 28), Five Star Taxi (No. 168), Quick Cab (No. 99) and Eagle Taxi (No. 89).