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 December 3, 1999

Taking a cab? Affinity card may hold fare

DENVER — When managers at the Denver-based Yellow Transportation discuss transportation technology in the 21st century, they inevitably tell the story of the 20th century Nacho Man.

Cabbing fever got the best of him.

Nacho Man was a gentleman in a leg cast with an apparent hankering for the cheesy jalapeño treat. He called the cab, which picked him up at his home. The cabbie took pity on him, so he parked the cab at a convenience store and went inside to fetch his fare’s munchies. After the driver entered the store, the crippled man drove off in the cab, only to be nabbed by the police within 10 blocks.

The stolen cab was found through global positioning technology, which spotted the vehicle on a satellite grid and a microwave signal pinpointed its position.

This global positioning system (GPS) is accurate within four feet. It is helpful in cases when a customer has a medical emergency or if a cabbie becomes involved in or sees an accident.

Satellite technology is standard issue for Denver-Boulder area cabs operated by Yellow Transportation. GPS is one example of innovation that company management hopes will disarm travelers in a highly competitive market.

“Technology is our greatest competitive edge. We’ll do what we can to maintain it,´ said Michael W. Brown, the company’s director of technology.

Robert C. Tschupp, vice president of business development, added: “We’re trying to be proactive. We want to think of solutions before customers can determine a problem.”

One move will involve introducing an affinity card, known as the Yellow Card, to the Denver-Boulder market. The card will be programmable, aiding businesses in their accounting and allowing them to adjust use of each card according to need.

Cards may be purchased by businesses or individuals for a set number of trips, just as a phone card is adjusted for a certain number of minutes. Law firms may use them for personnel and clients as they see fit. Parents may buy them for their children. Yellow Transportation hopes to have the system tested and operating in Boulder by next summer.

Yellow Transportation also is developing an Internet system designed for its account clients.

It projects that two existing services will serve Boulder well in the 21st century. One system calls with the time of a cab’s arrival, which is particularly useful when the road is out of view from the waiting customer.

Yellow Transportation also offers a service called The Button for bars, smaller hotels and restaurants to call a cab for patrons.

Denver-based Yellow Transportation oversees Boulder Yellow Cab and SuperShuttle Boulder. It operates four authorities in the Denver-Boulder area.

Its most recent owners purchased the privately held company out of bankruptcy in February 1996.

Yellow Transportation also bought the assets of the Boulder Airporter in March 1998. They worked to improve shuttle service, in part by adding 10 natural gas vehicles to the fleet. Most SuperShuttle buses in Boulder operate either on natural gas or diesel. Only three still run on petroleum-based gas.

Yellow Company’s latest acquisition occurred in late October, when it acquired a Portland, Ore., taxi service — its first out-of-state acquisition.

Boulder County is home to three of the company’s principals, including its president.

Tschupp, a Louisville resident, estimates that Yellow’s two authorities are the largest taxi and shuttle services operating in Boulder. Yellow Transportation has 45 cabs of its 445 cabs operating in Boulder. In contrast, Fort Collins only has four taxis.

University of Colorado students and business drive the difference between the two college towns, said Tschupp.

Yellow Transportation is the second-largest taxi service in Denver. It trails behind Metro Taxi, which recently purchased American Cab Co. Its other Denver-based competitors are Zone Cab and Freedom Cab, while Broomfield Taxi caters to the northwest metro area.

“If you count the number of vehicles, we’re not the largest, said SuperShuttle Manager Ross Alexander, a Nederland resident. “If you count the number of phone calls, we are.”

RTD’s Skyride also has impacted Yellow Transportation. “Students now get a free ride when they show their IDs. Before, they had to pay $14,” Alexander said. “They still use the SuperShuttle at beginning and end of semester, when they need boxes of gear picked up at their doors.”

“An increase in leisure demand and business travel has made up for the loss of student business,´ said Tschupp.

Tschupp said the company has virtually doubled the number of calls it has answered over the past four years. Between 1995 and 1996, before the buyout, the company received less than a million calls.

Alexander said, “We answered 2.1 million phone calls last year. We estimate that we will answer 2.3 million this year.”

Boulder remains an important market. The company is limited to 300 permits in Denver, the number of permits in Boulder is unlimited, Tschupp noted.

Technology Director Brown believes innovations will make the difference. “We are using technology to reach and meet customer demand,” Brown said. “We’re trying to keep step, not with competition, but with the marketplace.”

DENVER — When managers at the Denver-based Yellow Transportation discuss transportation technology in the 21st century, they inevitably tell the story of the 20th century Nacho Man.

Cabbing fever got the best of him.

Nacho Man was a gentleman in a leg cast with an apparent hankering for the cheesy jalapeño treat. He called the cab, which picked him up at his home. The cabbie took pity on him, so he parked the cab at a convenience store and went inside to fetch his fare’s munchies. After the driver entered the store, the crippled man drove off in the cab, only to…

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