Uber and Lyft have drawn the scorn of taxi drivers around the world, and has been the target of taxi-driver led protests in New York City, Paris, London, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Rome, Brussels, among other cities.
The Taxicab industry as a whole has been faced with significant challenges for the last five years. The two new challengers are attacking on all fronts — they offer less expensive and more convenient rides, and also attract veteran taxicab drivers from traditional cab operators
Many large operators are bankrupt, just look at Yellow Cab in Chicago and San Francisco. The price of a medallion in 2013 in NYC was at $1.32 million, but in August of 2016 medallions were being sold for as little as $650,000, a fifty percent drop in over two years!
With all the trouble in the taxicab world, it’s nice to see at least one cab operator survivor: Tommy’s Taxi in Framingham, Mass. Not only have they survived, but they still celebrate the use of Checker Cabs!
John “Tommy” Thompson, founded Tommy’s Taxi in 1946 just after the end of World War II. In the early days, Tommy would pick up pre war used cars to serve as taxis, the first cab was a used 1939 Oldsmobile. As business expanded, Tommy was able to focus on building a full fleet of purpose built taxicabs. Mr. Thompson purchased his first fleet of Checkers in the 1957. By 1960 Tommy would own a fleet of 20 Checkers that served the Metrowest section of Boston. Tommy would continue to use a “Checker Only” fleet through the mid 1980’s operating out of his Waverly Street facility.
In a 1969 letter to CMC CEO David Markin, Mr. Thompson wrote “Checker, like anything else, is not perfect, but in my opinion, it’s the only car built that I would call a taxi”. He further said, “Its large roomy body is so easy to enter and leave by, this being so important when serving the public.”
Tommy loved the ability to source parts for Checkers. We wrote Markin “the interchangeabilty of parts both mechanical and body from model to model is in itself a great savings for cab operators.”
From the June American Taxicab Association News June 1960 we can see one of Tommy’s Checkers take on a fleet of Checkers one Chevy and one Studebaker in the driver skills rodeo at the ITA national convention. Note in the picture, the significant number of Checker used in the Boston market.
This writer would take his first ride in a Checker in a Tommy’s Taxi, out of luck with a dead 1963 Plymouth Savoy, I called Tommy’s Taxi to get safely home. The ride home secured my love of Checkers!
As the Checker was phased out, Tommy, would switch to box style Chevrolets. Clearly the Tommy’s Taxi shop was experienced with GM mechanics so the switch made total sense given the Chevrolets utilized the same drivetrains as Checker. As the full size Impala/Caprice line was phased out by GM, Tommy’s Taxi would switch to Ford Crown Victorias, consistent with the majority of US cab operators.
Today, Tommy’s Taxi still has one Checker in their fleet, note the header photo of this blog. The Checker is equipped and fitted exactly like the Checker used by Tommy’s, very authentic.
In 2005, Tommy’s Taxi was awarded the prestigious “Taxicab Small Fleet Operator of the Year Award” and in 2012 the “Paratransit Operator of the Year Award” by the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association (TLPA). TLPA is the largest trade association of transportation owners and operators, representing fleets across the USA as well as internationally.
Tommy’s may not operate Checkers anymore, but they clearly are still adding value to the Metrowest area. So if you’re in Framingham and need a cab, call Tommy’s before you call Uber or Lyft.
If you would like to learn more about Tommy’s Taxi, check out his Facebook page.
Here’s s a link to the Tommy’s Taxi website