Driving Force: How Taxi Companies Leveraged the Difficulties of 2020 to Move Forward into a More Hopeful Year
After a quiet couple of months, the new Roaring Twenties certainly came in like a lion. Despite the hardships it brought, though, 2020 gave us the chance to reflect, come together (virtually), and rethink our priorities. From spending more time with family to reimagining goals for the future of an organization, people around the globe made the most of what was otherwise a difficult time, and taxicab companies were no exception.
Like everyone else, taxi providers took a hit as the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly impacted daily life. However, many owners and drivers saw it as an opportunity to do more with less and find ways to start strong in 2021.
Emphasizing Safety for Riders and Drivers
Ride hailing services had to take urgent steps to make rides as safe as possible for both customers and drivers, and the newness of COVID-19 made knowing what to do next challenging. As scientists learned more about the dangerous nature of the virus, recommendations and regulations regarding cleanliness continued to evolve.
Many taxi companies moved quickly to make their vehicles and business operations as safe as possible for all involved to continue providing transportation services to their communities. Green Cab in Madison, WI and Green Fleet in Eau Claire, WI joined others in implementing several safety measures, such as:
- Mandatory face masks and gloves for drivers during their shifts
- Disinfecting cab seats and high-touch surfaces between passengers
- Deep cleaning vehicles before each shift
- Installing plexiglass partitions between riders and drivers
"We’ve continued to grow week over week since April,” said Sue Goldsworthy, President of Green Cab, in late December 2020. “Even though riders aren’t confident when it comes to COVID, they are confident about their safety when jumping in a Green Cab.”
Bill Lobner, CEO of Green Fleet, echoed that sentiment, noting that riders felt more comfortable taking taxis because they could have the vehicle to themselves. “People have been hesitant to use other options like an airport shuttle,” Lobner said, noting the volume and frequency of passengers in those types of vehicles.
Staying Afloat with Financial Support
Many taxi companies are small businesses that have been owned and run by family for years, and even larger ones struggled with lower ridership during the early months of the pandemic. Thankfully, federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans made it possible for these companies to pay their employees and keep their heads above water during the most difficult times.
Green Cab benefited significantly from the program, which Sue found indispensable. “It helps so much because people were not wanting to get out and travel,” she said. “I don’t know if, without that money, we would have made it.” Thanks to PPP loans, Green Cab and other taxi companies could keep up with expenses and make post-pandemic plans.
Offering New Services to Keep Communities Thriving
After experiencing a sudden drop in revenue, cab providers had to get creative about ways they could still offer their services and assist their communities at the same time. To accomplish this goal, many chose to begin delivery services, which allowed them to transport essential goods instead of riders.
Some even formed partnerships with local businesses, creating mutually beneficial relationships that supported the companies and their patrons. Green Cab teamed up with Food Fight, Dane Buy Local, and Metcalfe’s Market to arrange for the delivery of takeout and fresh flowers to area residents. “Madison is a great community,” Sue said, “and to me, the more we can partner with all of these businesses, the more we’re helping each other.”
Looking Forward to a Better Year
After such a trying year, the future looks bright for taxi companies that were forced to find innovative ways to help themselves, each other, and their communities. Many are optimistic about what 2021 will bring, including Bill and Sue.
“We’re anticipating...that travel’s really going to pick up, and we’re going to expand to meet that demand,” said Bill in January 2021. “With the vaccination[s] that are coming out, I think public perception is that it will be much safer to travel in the coming months.”
Growth is on Sue’s mind, too. “If we can grow in a worldwide pandemic by building relationships and taking care of people, then once people want to get out...they’re going to call us,” she said. “I got goosebumps just thinking about it.”
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