The region’s biggest taxi company moved its operations from Pasco to Richland earlier this month.
[blockquote quote="We have no control over Uber and what’s going to happen." source="Mike Coyner, owner of Tri-City Taxi" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Mike Coyner has operated Tri-City Taxi for his mother since 2011, after taking over from his late father.
His grandfather Harold Coyner started the company in 1980 in Kennewick. It moved to Pasco in 1990.
Tri-City Taxi’s new home is on 2.5 acres on 2746 Kingsgate Way in Richland near the Horn Rapids development.
Coyner is leasing the property with an option to buy within 24 months.
The new 9,000-square-foot building will house Tri-City Taxi’s 34-vehicle fleet and 70 employees, of which 62 are drivers. The company’s drivers average 1.5 million miles a year, a dip from the pre-recession high-water mark of 2.9 million in 2014.
Coyner said the new building will allow him to consolidate his businesses under one roof. Besides Tri-City Taxi, he owns a handful of others.
There’s TC Auto Care and Tires, which has provided vehicle and repairs for Hanford site contractors as well as personal vehicles, since 2013.
And L&M Auto Sales at 4083 W. Van Giesen St. in West Richland, which Coyner started in 2015. He expected to sell one to two vehicles a month at the car lot located where the former state liquor store operated, but sold 200 vehicles last year.
“It’s been really successful,” he said.
Coyner also is involved in commercial real estate in the Tri-Cities, as well as Yakima and Portland, as Haralmar Corp., a name he coined using his father, grandfather and grandmother’s initials.
Tri-City Taxi moved into its new Richland building on April 9. As the dispatcher signed off on the last shift in Pasco, another signed on in Richland, allowing a seamless transition.
“We offer our services 24/7. We don’t close,” said Alex Bedoya, who has served as the company’s operations manager for 11 years.
“We don’t have a lock on the door. We haven’t closed since we opened in 1980,” Coyner said.
It’s a season of change for the 37-year-old Tri-City Taxi, as Uber, a ride-hailing service that can be summoned from a smartphone, began operating in Benton County last year.
Tri-City Taxi is watching how it’ll affect its bottom line closely.
“We haven’t noticed an impact yet,” Bedoya said.
“We have no control over Uber and what’s going to happen,” Coyner said.
But he said Uber can’t offer what his company can. He said customers don’t know what kind of driver they’re getting when they open the door and slide into an Uber car.
At Tri-City Taxi, all drivers undergo random drug tests, extensive safety training, as well as first aid, CPR and defensive driver training, and the vehicles they drive are inspected to be in safe, working condition, Coyner said.
They also undergo background checks that include fingerprinting.
“We have to go further than most everyone else on the planet does. We have to have state and federal background checks,” Coyner said, explaining the company’s state and federal contracts require it.
Using the local taxi service is worth the extra couple of dollars, Coyner said.
The taxi boarding fee is $4.95 and then it’s $2.50 a mile. For a 10-mile trip, that’s about $30.
Uber has about 100 drivers from the Tri-Cities who’ve applied to drive for the company or already are actively driving and they’re offering a thousand rides weekly, said Alex Diaz, territory manager for the region. He called the Tri-Cities a healthy market.
Uber can pick up passengers in Benton County and in Richland, Kennewick and West Richland but not in Pasco, though it can drop passengers off anywhere, including Pasco.
The Pasco City Council recently approved a city ordinance to allow companies like Uber and Lyft to pick up riders in the city as long as the companies are licensed and individual drivers have submitted their fingerprints to verify their identity.
But Diaz said, “We just can’t operate in a market that has fingerprint checks.”
Tri-City Taxi’s traditional taxi service makes up 18 percent of the company’s revenue, Coyner said.
Its biggest contract is with Ben Franklin Transit. The company provides Dial-A-Ride, Sunday service, Finley service and Trans-Plus services, picking up passengers from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. and averaging about 400 people a night.
The contract provides for more than 113,000 passenger boardings, estimated in 2016.
Ben Franklin Transit budgeted nearly $2.5 million for Tri-City Taxi services this year.
Tri-City Taxi also is a state broker for the People for People program, providing Medicaid patients transportation.
The state Labor and Industries department also uses Tri-City Taxi to drive injured workers to appointments and serves as a courier for several companies, including FedEx and DHL.
In its heyday, the company had 250 employees and was doing contract work as far away as Spokane, the Yakama Nation and Umatilla Nation in Oregon. It’s now focused on serving the Tri-City area.
“We’ll probably be looking to see what contracts are out there. We’re staying within the Tri-Cities,” Bedoya said.
Bedoya called the transportation industry a tricky one. “It’s really difficult to project what we’re going to be doing five years from now. We are at the mercy of funding, the economy — all those things,” he said.
Coyner is optimistic, citing the Tri-Cities’ population growth. “We see the progress and move forward into the unknown and wait to see what happens,” he said, calling the move into a new building a new beginning.
For more information about Tri-City Taxi, call 509-547-7777 or visit tctransportservices.com.
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