A new company has opened its doors to provide a growing Minot with much-needed taxi service.
Central Cab Company, which is locally owned, began picking up customers Feb. 13 and has been busy ever since. Chris Braun, manager, said Central Cab's number, 852-8000, will be familiar to many people who have caught a cab in the past. It was the old number of Minot Cab, which went out of business and sold the number to Central Cab.
"That used to be Minot Cab. Before that it used to be All American, before that it used to be something else," Braun said. "That number has been a taxi number for many, many years."
Central Cab bought the old number, but nothing else, and all the equipment is brand new. Braun said there was a definite hole to fill in the Minot market, as there had only been one cab company in town for the past year or so until they opened up.
They were actually going to open last summer, but then the flood hit and put everything on hold. When things started to get going again early this year, Braun actually came out of retirement to take the job managing the company. She was a hairdresser and had owned her own salon for 12 years.
Braun's retirement was short-lived. She retired from hairdressing at the end of December and started at Central Cab in early January.
They started with seven drivers and are now up to 21. In addition to the drivers, there are also six dispatchers. Braun is still looking for both drivers and dispatchers for part-time and full-time shifts at all hours of the day and night. She said job applicants can stop by the company garage, which also houses the office and dispatch center, at 504B E. Central Ave., behind the Brick Studio, to pick up an application. They can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call.
Along with a good knowledge of Minot's streets and avenues, Braun said potential drivers must also pass a background check, which is mandated by the City of Minot and performed by the Minot Police Department.
In addition to requiring a background check, Braun said the city also sets prices the prices cab companies charge.
"A lot of people think, well so-and-so's cheaper and so-and-so's more expensive," she said. "We're going by what the city tells us we have to do."
There are 10 cabs in the fleet, mostly vans, as well as a car that doesn't have the "cab" sign on the roof and is used specifically for out-of-town trips. While the cabs don't have GPS systems in them, the drivers are helped out by the dispatchers to find an address if needed.
The dispatchers always have Google Maps up to find a specific address, and they also keep tabs on flight schedules at Minot International Airport as well as train schedules at the Amtrak depot.
"So we're just trying to be more efficient with our drivers as far as keeping them in certain locations," Braun said. "If we've got a call on the south end of town, we're not going to send my north-end driver to go pick up this one."
They keep track of the flight and train schedules to see if anything is running late so they don't send taxis there to pick up passengers when they're not needed.
Children age 5 and under ride for free, but Braun noted parents must provide their own car seats or the children can't ride due to city ordinances. They also offer $1 off for senior citizens age 55 and over.
"We try to help (customers) a little bit here and there," Braun said.
They are also working on being certified to participate in a voucher program that allows customers with Medicaid to receive free rides to doctor appointments, with the bill being paid by the government. Braun has sent in the paperwork and is waiting for the government to respond. Until it does, she said Central Cab can't take the vouchers, which has upset some customers who have used the program with other cab companies in the past.
"We are working on it, and we have been asked by a couple elderly people, and they're a little upset with us," Braun said. "But we've only been in this a month."
Another program Central Cab is doing on its own locally is allowing businesses to hand out vouchers to customers that give them a free ride directly home. The voucher is paid for by the business, and helps ensure the passenger gets home safely. Braun said Nola's Lounge is taking part in the program.
"They go directly home. They do not go to another bar she's not paying for them to go to another bar," Braun said. "Not to McDonald's, not to the gas station or anything. It's directly home to make sure her customers get home safe."
The Vegas Motel and Sidekicks are other businesses that have shown interest in the program, as well as the cities of Surrey and Burlington, but nothing has been worked out with them as of yet.
Yet another program Central Cab is still working on finalizing is with Delta Airlines and United Airlines. If an airline passenger has lost their luggage, Central Cab would contract with the airline to deliver the luggage within 75 miles. For anything farther away the airline would mail the luggage.
Another airline program that isn't quite ready to go would contract Central Cab to drive airline passengers in Minot to Grand Forks to catch a connecting flight if their original flight is overbooked. Braun said the airports in Bismarck and Williston are both too busy to handle overflow from overbooked flights.
She noted Central Cab will also drive all over the state and even into neighboring states for other customers, as well. She did say for long-distance trips they will require partial payment up front, however.
"Wherever that customer wants to go, we'll take them," she said. "There's no limit on anything."
They also do time calls, in which a customer calls ahead of time to schedule a cab to pick them up at a specific time on a specific day. This is a popular option for airline passengers who have to catch an early-morning flight and need to be at the airport on time.
Braun also said any large companies that need a shuttle service, such as driving a crew into the oil fields, should contact her by email. She said they might possibly branch off into a transportation service that's separate from the cab company if there's enough interest.
So far business has been very good, and Braun said they have gotten a lot of compliments from customers on how clean the cabs are and how quick theie service is. She noted all the cabs are smoke free, which is very popular with many customers.
"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers," Braun said. "Every day one of my drivers tells me about a customer that was very happy on how clean our vehicles were or that we're smoke free."
"We just want to be a smoke-free company and a clean company and try to run smooth and be there for the public," she added.