Sun Cab Co. Inc., a 63-year-old Baltimore taxi company, is selling all its 76 permits and vehicles to Yellow Transportation Inc., boosting the number of cabs affiliated with Yellow to nearly half those driving the city streets.
The purchase, which must be approved by the Public Service Commission, was not expected to affect taxi service in the city since fares and number of cabs are controlled by the PSC.
"It's hard to see how, by product or price, that it hurts anybody," said People's Counsel John M. Glynn, the state official who represents consumers before the PSC.
Frank Fulton, a spokesman for the PSC, said the commission would consider the effects on competition and the public in its review of the applications to transfer the permits. A decision could come by the end of next week, he said.
Asked why he decided to sell the business, Sun President Joseph Zimmerman, who began driving a cab at age 14, said, "I've decided to slow down a little." Mr. Zimmerman, who declined to give his age but is believed to be in his late 70s, amassed his own fleet of cabs before buying Sun in 1967. Sun Cab is not affiliated with The Baltimore Sun.
Even though the company will no longer operate cabs, it plans to continue offering mechanical and body shop services to independent cab owner-operators from its 2600 Sisson St. building. The company will also operate a nine-vehicle limousine service.
The sale would increase the number of cabs owned by Yellow to 178, according to Mark L. Joseph, president of Yellow. In addition, there are about 362 other cabs that are owner-operated or part of small fleets, which are members of three associations owned by Yellow.
The associations provide a radio dispatch operation and other services to the independently owned cabs for a monthly fee. "We service those cars, but we don't control them," Mr. Joseph said.
Of the 1,151 cab permits in the city, 654 are owned by independent owners who have five or fewer cabs. The city's other cab associations are Royal Taxi Cab, Diamond Cab, G.I. Veterans Cab and Arrow Cab. Officials for those companies were not available for comment yesterday.
Yellow Transportation, which has been owned by the Joseph family since 1976, has been the most aggressive cab company in the city, expanding to a variety of other transportation services. These include the Baltimore Trolley Tours, shuttle service to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a Jiffy Lube franchise and the development of the Oak Street auto care complex at Howard and 21st streets.
Yellow said it would retain the 76 Sun drivers with the cabs and create a new association for them called Sun Taxi Cab Association. It will also continue to use Sun's 235-0300 telephone number.
"That phone number is well-known," Mr. Joseph said.
Neither Sun nor Yellow would disclose the sale price. But according to the company's filings with the PSC, each cab was valued at $17,500 for equipment and the permits, bringing the total value of the 76 cabs to $1.33 million.
Sun has already sold about 180 vehicles and permits in the past year and a half. About half of those are held by owner-operators in the Yellow associations, Mr. Joseph said.
Mr. Joseph said his company is buying the additional cabs because it sees the demand for cabs increasing in coming years with the expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center, other downtown development and a resulting increase in tourism.
"The city is going to require more service in the future and we want to be able to fill that need," Mr. Joseph said.
Mr. Joseph said the company plans to use the cabs more efficiently, particularly with a new $1 million computerized dispatching system that is set to be installed by the end of the year. "We only make money if our cabs roll," he said. "People should expect more cabs."