Greener, But Not Green Enough

A troubled taxi company's back on the upswing.

Green Cab, which seemed on the point of collapse in April, is still hanging on. In a meeting last month with King County, the taxi company's representatives revealed that they had gotten back seven Toyota Priuses that had been repossessed by the bank. "It was a very happy moment," says Barb DeLauter, the county's recording and licensing manager.Though the company laid off its previous general manager in the spring, it has hired a new one: Mark Schofield, a self-described turnaround specialist who has worked in various industries, though not in the taxi business. He attended Green Cab's meeting with the county. It's not clear why the company's fortunes have improved; it may have gotten new investors, which it had sought in the spring. Schofield declined to answer questions on the topic, referring calls to Green Cab board chair Desie Belete, who did not return messages.But it doesn't seem that the company is out of the woods yet. DeLauter says Green Cab, which received 50 coveted county licenses last year to set up a new eco- and labor-friendly business model, is not yet profitable. Craig Leisy, manager of Seattle's Consumer Affairs Unit, which handles records for city and county taxis, says that he believes a number of Green Cab's drivers spend most of their time driving for other companies. At least, he says, they were wearing other companies' ID tags when they showed up at his office recently to renew their Green Cab licenses. Although his office lists 30 active Green Cab licenses—up from 18 in the spring—he says he has seen very few of the actual cabs on the road.What is clear is that Green Cab has been hampered by a number of factors, including its required investment in pricey, energy-efficient hybrid cars; a labor model that doesn't appeal to some drivers; and, of course, the recession that has impacted the entire industry. "I don't think anybody's doing well right now," Leisy says.

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