Four years ago Yellow Cab of Cleveland announced that it was shutting its doors after 90 years in business. One of the original Yellow Cab franchise operations established by John Hertz, the company had a long run. From the late 1920’s through 1982, Yellow was one of the larger “Checker” fleets operated in the US.
The Yellow Cab Co. of Cleveland was organized in Cleveland as early as 1923, operating from E. 49th St. and Superior. It had apparently merged with the Red Top Cab Co. by 1926, altered its name to the Cleveland Yellow Cab Co., and moved into Red Top’s former location at 1500-1538 Lakeside Ave. By June 1929 Yellow Cab had been taken over by the DeLuxe Cab Co., which had been incorporated in 1927. In 1929 Jesse T. Smith became president, and DeLuxe began replacing its fleet with yellow cabs; in 1930 it became the Yellow Cab Co. and moved into a new 400-car garage at 2020 W. 3rd St.
Yellow expanded its operations steadily until May 1934, when Taxi Drivers Union Local No. 555 went on strike. The 11-week strike was marred by violence before an agreement was finally reached in July.
Less than 6 months after the strike, Yellow announced that it was consolidating operations with its major competitor, the Zone Cab Co., which had been organized in 1930 by Daniel Sherby; in 1931, Arthur B. “Mickey” McBride bought a controlling share of the business and became its president. Smith remained president of Yellow, which became the main operating company in the merger, with its garage serving as headquarters. The United Garage Service Corp. was later established as a holding company for the two companies.
Yellow Cab enjoyed a relatively stable and profitable business for the next 35 years. During World War II it employed women drivers as replacements for men, and in Oct. 1944 it became the first cab company to use 2-way radios for dispatch.
In 1947 the city council preserved the firm’s monopoly on service within the city when it refused to grant taxi permits to a group of veterans who planned to form the G.I. Cab Co.
By 1967 there were 481 Yellow and 105 Zone cabs on Cleveland streets. The extension of the Greater Cleveland Transportation Authority’s rapid service to the airport in 1968, however, contributed to a reduction in Yellow’s business; between 1971-74, taxi ridership dropped by 34%, and Yellow and Zone lost $965,413, despite a driver-approved pay cut in 1971. A 73% leap in gas costs and charges by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of violating clean-air laws added to the company’s problems.
Between 1970-76, Yellow and Zone reduced their number of cab drivers from 1,500 to 761, with a fleet of 458 cabs. In 1977 the city council granted a rate increase only after Yellow agreed to relax its monopoly and grant unused permits to independent drivers. Ten years later the city cancelled Yellow’s half-century monopoly by allowing operations by any company with a minimum of 25 cars. In 1993 Yellow ceased operating its 240 cabs with company-employed drivers, leasing them instead to drivers on a daily basis.
According to a 2017 report on the Cleveland dot com Metro website “Yellow Cab owner Brian McBride, 58, said his business will continue to honor some contracts but will close completely within 60 days.
McBride said there are a number of reasons for closing, but t emergence of Lift Uber was among them. He did say that Uber and Lyft — in which drivers use their own cars to transport passengers — do not have to comply with the same regulations as licensed cab companies because they are considered “transportation network companies” under state law.
For one thing, Uber and Lyft drivers don’t have to pass a test required by the City of Cleveland to get licensed, he said. McBride said probably 95 percent of the past 50 people he had take the test failed.
Other issues he said his company has had to contend with include age limitations on the vehicles and illegal competition. Ultimately, the bigger issue for cab companies going forward will be the arrival of driverless vehicles, he said.”
Now closed, ICTA members Laddie Vitek and Emerson took the unique opportunity to photograph Laddie’s former Chicago Checker. The former Chicago car is currently painted in the former Cleveland Yellow Cab livery. Prior to transporting the Checker to Illinois, Laddie and Emerson were able to make a side trip to Cleveland and photograph some fantastic shot of the Checker in key Cleveland scenes.
Please enjoy the great photos take by Emerson Zentz. For more photos, check out the ICTA Facebook page.