Taxi service suspended

Owner says cabs put on hold because of a lack of business

New Year's Eve revelers won't have the option to call a taxi in Craig.

Owners of a local taxi-courier service suggest that might be the case for a while, as Craig police could be the safest bet getting home for partygoers who have had a bit too much.

"People just figured it would always be there, but the town has not supported the cab," said Scott Doehling, whose Diamond Cab and Courier suspended the cab side of operations effective Dec. 1.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has yet to review the application to suspend the Craig taxi service, according to Terry Bote, PUC spokesman.

Doehling said taxis would return only as demand does, while adding he was open to potential buyers of the service. Options will be evaluated once again in six months, he said.

"We'll decide whether to come back or discontinue it altogether," he said.

Doehling, who started the business six years ago, said that Craig's use of his taxi has steadily declined in recent years as higher fuel and insurance costs were passed on to customers.

Rates at $3.50 per trip were raised to $5 in 1999, which included another $2 charge per extra passenger. The mainly Craig-based patrons looked elsewhere, as the number of drivers and cabs were cut back.

Diamond Cab and Courier now employs three drivers -- all couriers who run routes from Northwest Colorado to various regional destinations.

"Last New Year's we (taxi service) made about $400 to $500," Doehling said, noting years prior to the rate hike netted twice that amount.

Diamond Cab and Courier had operated as a monopoly regulated by the PUC exclusively serving Moffat County. The PUC, which sets taxi fares and safety standards, also regulates the type and number of taxi operators entering the market in Colorado counties with populations of less than 65,000.

No potential competitors have applied to open shop in Moffat County, Bote said.

Diamond Cab and Courier would need PUC approval to again offer taxi service once suspended,

or it could sell its rights to another party.

Meanwhile, Craig residents should look elsewhere for getting around New Year's Eve.

Prior to the taxi service, police sometimes filled that role.

"That's probably what they'll have to do this year," Doehling said.

Bill Leonard, administrative sergeant with the Craig Police Department, said officers would offer rides from various locations only to homes.

"If the department is called, officers can give rides no questions asked," Leonard said.

Officers' availability will depend on call loads, he said.

An extra officer will supplement a force of five to six patrolmen New Year's Eve, which has been relatively quiet in recent years, Leonard

said.

"Before (the taxi service), we'd get quite a few requests for rides."

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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