Local taxi cab drivers suggest co-op to curb high operating costs

Taxi cab driver Liban Bile said he pays $75 each day in service fees to Green and White Taxi to cover things from insurance to radio communication. He also pays for the gas for his taxi cab, which he owns.

On a Friday or Saturday night, he said, he makes “quite a bit” more than $75. He keeps all the fares passengers pay, he said. But work early Monday afternoon was slow. Bile said that he made $4 in approximately two hours while working in downtown Minneapolis.

Each day, there is a risk taxi cab drivers will not make any more money than what they pay in, said Sam Holle, North Country Cooperative Development Fund in Minneapolis worker co-op outreach coordinator.

A group of Somali taxi cab drivers want to cut costs on insurance and have a single telephone number for customers to use when they need a cab, said Paul Zerby, Ward 2, who represents the Minneapolis campus and surrounding areas. The drivers presented information earlier this month to Zerby that would help them take cooperative ownership in their business, Zerby said.

He said the plan is not limited to Somali people.

Ali Gelle, a Somali community leader who focuses on small business, said the cooperative is in the early planning process.

Holle said a cooperative is a group of people who own something together.

Zerby said Minneapolis residents continue to rely on taxi cabs. For example, when people ride the Hiawatha light rail line, they must go from the stations to other places around the city, he said.

Bile said the company he works for pays too much for insurance each month, and he would like to see something that could bring those costs down.

If he joined a cooperative that would cut insurance rates, he said, he thinks he would see a decrease in the daily amount he pays to the company.

Ahmed Jama, the Somali Student Association president, said the single telephone line would make taxi cabs more accessible to people. He also said the cooperative might help drivers make a better living.

Zerby said the drivers could choose to create a cooperative to get cheaper insurance, among other things. Also, the cooperative could lend or own taxi cabs for drivers to use, he said.

“I would very much like to see them make progress on this and get it done,” Zerby said. “Whether they are able to do that and how quickly, we’ll have to see.”

His office is looking at licensing issues to see how it could affect the cooperative, he said.

Gelle said details remain uncertain as to how the cooperative will be set up. He said it is not known if those who drive for the cooperative and have their own cars would be allowed to work for another company. Those who own a car can also join the cooperative, he said.

Zerby said there would be no requirement for taxi cab drivers to join the cooperative in the city.

The University’s Parking and Transportation Services does not track how many students use taxi cabs on campus, said Mary Sienko, its marketing manager.