The taxicab competition derby


Since the economy started going downhill, there has been noticeable proliferation of new and independent taxicab services flooding the streets of Greater Lansing in search of fares. Where Spartan Cab and Yellow Cab (now merged) were largely the only game in town a decade or so ago, today there are taxicab services of all shapes, sizes, and niches – operating everything from standard automobiles, to hybrid-only vehicles, to passenger van services, to pedicabs.

Yes, this is a positive sign of entrepreneurship filling a market need. However, I would also have to say it is a clear example of displaced workers struggling to supplement their lost wages. As job opportunities became more and more scarce, operating a taxicab service became a relatively inexpensive way to earn/maintain an income. Echoing this interpretation in a recent quote in The State News, East Lansing’s Planning Director Tim Dempsey said the following,

“In a down economy, I think people think of it as a way to earn some money. The city saw steady growth in the number of cabs the last few years, but sees companies are scaling back. I think as they get into the business, people realized it’s more difficult in practice than in theory.”

Several of the new(er) taxicab companies have done quite well. Among the most successful is Green Cab, who operates an entire  fleet of hybrid

vehicles, all of which also include racks for carrying bikes. This eco-friendly service resonates in a college town. Other identified taxicab services in Greater Lansing (besides the aforementioned Green Cab and Spartan-Yellow) include:

  • A-Taxi
  • AA Taxi
  • ABC Taxi
  • Adam Taxi
  • ALD-Cab
  • Anytime/Anywhere Taxi
  • Big Daddy Taxi
  • Capital Cab
  • Cosmo Team
  • Danny’s Taxi
  • DD’s Downtown Taxi
  • Hello Cab
  • Jay’s Cab
  • LM Cab
  • L-Town Cab
  • M Cab
  • Meridian Transportation
  • Mountain Man Taxi
  • Nada Limo
  • Need-A-Ride Taxi
  • Old Skool Taxi
  • Party Cab
  • Ray Cab
  • Riding in Style
  • Royal Express
  • S-cabs
  • Shaggin’ Wagon Taxi
  • Spar-Thai (electric-powered pedicab)
  • Tigris  River Taxi
  • White Star Taxi

According to a story in The State News and data from the City of East Lansing, as of August 2011 there were 28 licensed taxicab services licensed just in the City of East Lansing. In addition, the actual number of taxi vehicles has grown exponentially from just eight in 2005 to 122 in 2011.

At the same time, as there has been a rapid growth in taxicabs, some problems have developed, such as congested taxi stands and a glut of competition.   The glut has literally driven some of the drivers out of the industry, as the number of actual licensed taxi drivers in East Lansing is now 90, even though there are 122 licensed vehicles. Toss in three area transit companies (CATA, EATRAN, and Clinton County Transit) and the Michigan Flyer express bus service to Detroit Metro Airport and there are a lot of players in the market.

As more people chose to reduce their carbon footprint or cannot afford multiple cars, eventually the local taxicab market will stabilize at a sustainable number. In the meantime, there is stiff competition rolling along the city streets of Greater Lansing in search of fares.

I do not believe this is an isolated occurrence here in Mid-Michigan. My guess is that similar boomlets in taxicab services are happening elsewhere across the country, especially when and where the economy is weak. Anyone who would like to note similar observations is welcome to do so by submitting a comment. I am looking forward to reading the feedback.

This entry was posted in Bicycling, cities, transit, transportation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The taxicab competition derby

  1. Dan says:


    Please check your Reddit messages. Thanks!



  2. Tim Potter says:

    Too bad the one lonely pedicab business was driven out of E. Lansing a couple years ago by someone or some group in the city that didn’t like him giving rides based on donations. Haven’t seen nor heard of him since. Is he still plying the late-night after-drinking-need-a-cheap-ride-home crowd? The Spar-Thai e-pedi-cabs are certainly filling a niche that’s exciting to see around campus.


  3. Millard says:

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  4. Tommie says:

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