Jessica Murray, the co-owner of Missoula's Green Taxi, says her company consistently gets calls from locals who need rides to medical appointments. But Green Taxi, with its fleet of two Toyota Priuses, has to turn those requests down, because it's not licensed by the Montana Public Service Commission, which regulates motor carriers in the state, to transport patients.
And Murray insists many patients are in need of a lift. She's out to convince the PSC to green-light Green Taxi's recent application to provide the service. She has a handful of affidavits signed by Missoulians who say that the two local companies currently licensed to give patients rides, Medicab and Yellow Cab, aren't meeting the demand, or are too expensive or unreliable.
"In Missoula, we need a better choice," wrote one disabled 75-year-old woman, "and there is one: Green Taxi. They are utterly reliable and caring, which are the two things that matter most to the people who need medical attention."
The PSC is holding a hearing at 9 a.m on Nov. 30, at Missoula's Red Lion Motel on West Broadway, to help determine whether to approve Green Taxi's request. In addition to transporting patients, Green Taxi is asking to expand its geographic scope into Flathead, Lake and Ravalli counties.
"We have to prove that [Medicab and Yellow Cab] are basically not going to be hindered by us getting into the market, or that they're doing such a lousy job that somebody needs to step up and help these folks that are falling through the gap," Murray says. "And we're going to fight it from both angles."
Medicab and Yellow Cab are fighting back. Both oppose Green Taxi's application. "I've never turned anybody down," says Medicab owner Brian Parks, "so how can a need not be met?"
Medicab only provides medical transportation, so already, Parks says, Green Taxi has a "bigger piece of the pie" than Medicab does. "I do a good job at it and I provide an excellent service for this community," he says. "People in wheelchairs depend on me to get to dialysis."
The PSC has cited Green Taxi twice for unlawfully giving patients rides to appointments, in November 2009 and January 2011. Murray says the citations were given to a former driver who "had this huge heart and a hard time saying no."