WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

1 taxi service left standing: Blue Star abruptly closes; Safety Cab Co. charts increase in rides

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The owners of a shuttered cab company cite city regulations as the cause of a closure that has left taxi coverage in Wilson to one company.

“They said we had to have a third shift, but we couldn’t afford it. And we were paying them for nothing, so we tried to explain that to (city officials),” said Blue Star Cab president Ronnie Edmundson. “We wanted to keep it open, but the rules and regulations of what we’ve got to have meant we just couldn’t keep it open.

“I’m not going to take no money out of my pocket to keep it open.”

Blue Star Cab operated out of an office at the bus station in downtown Wilson until Feb. 20. City officials were formally notified Wednesday that the company had ceased operations.

Rebecca Agner, Wilson communications and marketing director, said the taxi rules and regulations are detailed in the city ordinances. Blue Star reportedly violated two provisions: “providing service 24 hours a day for the purpose of receiving calls and dispatching taxicabs” and having two taxicabs in service or on-call at all hours to “provide around-the-clock service.”

“Municipal ordinances governing taxicab operators are standard practice in cities across the United States,” Agner said. “Taxis are considered part of the public transportation system and municipal regulation helps with standards of uniformity among operators. The city of Wilson, like other cities, regulates taxicab standards and the number of taxicab companies to promote a healthy, safe transportation system.”

While Blue Star has been around for decades, the Edmundsons took over Blue Star in 2016 and had about eight drivers. Business has declined in recent years and Edmundson said there hasn’t been a need for overnight drivers, so paying drivers or dispatchers was an unnecessary expense.

“We’re sorry we couldn’t keep it going,” Edmundson said.

Meanwhile, business has picked up for Safety Cab Co. since the closure.

“Any time a business dies, it is sad and it does affect all of us,” Safety Cab Co. operator James Hobbs said. “We were competitive, but we respected each other and got along fine. It is always sad to see a business close down, though.”

Hobbs’ wife, Louise, used to drive a cab, but has served a dispatcher for the company for more than a decade. She said she’s probably dispatched an additional 40 rides since the closure of Blue Star and expects that number to continue to rise as former Blue Star drivers switch to driving for Safety Cab.

James Hobbs said while Safety Cab opened around World War I and Blue Star came along later, Blue Star had been the larger company with more cabs in decades past.

“Transportation has gotten more competitive. A lot more people are in transportation than when I got into it. You have the city bus, transit buses and buses for medical purposes, schools and stuff that get assistance from federal dollars,” James Hobbs said. “Don’t nobody subsidize taxicabs. We’re independently run and operated.”

And while he noted smartphone app-based ridesharing services are available in Wilson, he hasn’t seen a big difference in business since they came to town. Edmundson said he became frustrated with the lack of comparable oversight and regulation of ridesharing services.

“Is it fair that cab insurance keeps going up, yet Uber gets to come in with a regular tag and skip the cab insurance?” he asked. “Our insurance went up twice in one year.”

To request a Safety Cab ride, call 252-243-2356 or 252-291-7749.

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