May 30, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer
To Dennis Randolph, a convention guest with an expense account
would be an ideal taxi passenger.
Randolph, a Yellow Cab driver, is among many area taxi operators
who hope that Thursday's opening of the new Connecticut Convention
Center in downtown Hartford will translate into more business.
Several state and local officials said last week that they believe
area taxi companies are ready to serve the influx of convention guests,
whose perception of Hartford will be shaped by the availability -
or lack of - amenities such as prompt, reliable cab service.
State regulators and local tourism officials say it is a matter
of simple economics: If potential passengers with money will be at
the convention center, the taxi drivers will gravitate there.
"There'll definitely be cabs around the center," said
Michael Olschafskie, president of Ace Taxi Service. "I'm upbeat
about it. Anything that'll help the Hartford area is good."
Olschafskie said company dispatchers will tell drivers who aren't
already busy to head to the center when there is a convention in
town. There, the drivers can do their mandatory daily paperwork in
the cab while waiting for potential passengers, as they currently
do at Bradley International Airport and downtown Hartford's Union
The convention center, which opens Thursday with the Connecticut
Business Xpo, can host meetings ranging from a dozen people to at
least 17,000. The first large convention is a joint gathering of
the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society from
July 1 to 3.
Hartford might not seem to be a taxi-rich area compared with larger
Northeast cities where cabs often circle the streets in search of
passengers. However, state officials say, there are more cabs available
around the capital city than people realize.
The state Department of Transportation regulates Connecticut's 90
taxi companies, and has assigned 11 of those companies to Greater
Hartford as their primary territory.
Those 11 companies have 114 total registered cabs, said Dennis J.
King, manager of the regulatory and compliance unit of the DOT's
bureau of public transportation, which regulates taxis.
"The Hartford market is probably one of the very few markets
in Connecticut where we don't have concerns about the need for additional
taxi services," King said. "It would have to be an extremely
busy night for all of the vehicles to be taken."
Randolph, the Yellow Cab driver, hopes to be among the taxi operators
who find new passengers at the convention center.
"I'd like it. It'll probably mean a lot more rides to and from
the airport, so that'll be good," said Randolph, who was among
about eight taxi drivers lined up at Hartford's Union Station on
a recent weekday morning.
Rather than circling city streets in hopes of being flagged down,
the cabs usually line up at the station or airport, or wait elsewhere
to be dispatched to pick up passengers who call for rides. However,
they are allowed to pick up passengers anywhere they are flagged
down, or at venues where taxi starter lines form after busy events.
A few years ago, the state DOT received a rash of complaints from
people after taxi drivers in downtown Hartford refused to take them
on short rides, hoping instead to land a longer fare with someone
else. That practice violates state regulations; taxi operators must
take passengers on a first-come, first-served basis.
King, the state DOT regulatory official, said the complaints have
trickled to a minimum over the past few years as companies have been
disciplined and DOT employees have posed as short-ride customers
to check compliance.
"We've come down on the industry in that regard," said
King, adding that drivers can receive citations with fines up to
$250, and that companies can be placed on probation for repeat offenses.
Many Hartford hotels have shuttle buses for guests, and some convention
planners - including those organizing the Islamic Circle and Muslim
American Society convention - book their own shuttle buses to transport
attendees to events rather than relying on taxis.
David Lill, general manager of Valley Cab and Tunxis Cab, said he
thinks the center's opening will be good for downtown Hartford and
local cab companies, and that the taxis will go wherever passengers
Valley Cab and Tunxis Cab both are based primarily in the Farmington
Valley, but could benefit from convention guests going to and from
the shopping, historical sites and businesses in those suburbs, Lill
"We go in and out of Hartford all the time, so I think this
will generate more activity," Lill said of the center's opening.
H. Scott Phelps, president of the Greater Hartford Convention and
Visitors Bureau, said that officials from those cab companies recently
attended workshops given by the bureau and the Hartford Hospitality
Task Force, which offered advice on how to enhance convention guests'
Phelps said he thinks the availability of taxi cabs will be driven
by dollars: More passengers equals more fares and, hopefully, good
"My understanding is that they'll gear up as the need is there," he
said. "Taxi cabs tend to go where they're going to make some
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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