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Islander - "Sanibel Taxi Is More Than Just A Ride"
Interested in the history of Sanibel Taxi?  Read on...

When Ron Taylor became general manager of Sanibel Taxi...the company was owned by J.P. Hanley who sold it to Roger and Bill Pritchard the following year.  "Since we were the only taxi company on the island, the Pritchards wanted to keep it here and offer the best ride to the airport."

Today Sanibel Taxi has a fleet of eleven vehicles and, on a typically busy day, in season, make 30-65 trips to the airport, beginning with a number of 4 a.m. transports from Captiva and Sanibel. 

The drivers are selected on the basis of honesty, dependability, punctuality and their ability to converse with passengers.  However, at 4 a.m. most passengers want no conversation.

Many drivers have varied backgrounds ranging from a chiropractor who wanted a break from his practice, a retired Air Force major.  Sanibel police officers seeking part-time work, to a woman who was employed by a local TV station and wanted something with less pressure.

As Taylor explains, managing a taxi company requires lots of juggling, impeccable courtesy, attention to detail and a quick response to last-minute calls.  In addition to airport trips, there's another very important part of the business.  "Since we are the only company on Sanibel and Captiva, this becomes a real community where families set up accounts so that we can transport family members to their appointments and take them shopping.  We are very conscientious about our responsibility to the islanders, and have as many as 25-30 of these accounts at  one time," Taylor points out.

One of his favorite "taxi stories" is the lady who called lated in the evening asking if a taxi driver could pick up some Pepto Bismol at the drug store and deliver it to her.  The lady was so delighted that she sent a thank you card!

Sanibel Taxi supports the community in excess of $100,000 annually.  "We own and pay taxes on this space here; plus, our maintenance is done on the island and runs over $25,000 to $30,000 per year.  We try to employ as many islanders as we can and contribute to organizations such as C.R.O.W. Taste of the Islands, and other worthwhile causes through transportation and advertising in their booklets.  We have done work with the "Angel Flight Pilots" by providing ground transportation to and from the plane for children who need medical attention.  We want to be an important part of the community," emphasizes Taylor.

All kinds of unusual happenings are part of a taxi driver's repertoire.  Sometimes it's people arriving at the airport and discovering they've forgotten their tickets.  If time permits, the driver will go back and get the tickets or try to have them delivered to the airport before the flight leaves.  Cell phones and briefcases are frequently left in the taxi, and on New Year's Eve there are always some interesting "finds"...like the two non-matching shoes and bathing suit.

The September 11, 2001 disaster had a temporary impact on Sanibel Taxi's business with a 50-percent decrease from September 11 through October 1.  Taylor explained that most of the business that dropped off was corporate travel.  Now much has been rescheduled for the current year and once again corporate groups ranging in size from 80-250 people are returning to the resorts for meetings and conventions. 

For larger groups, Sanibel Travel uses larger motor coaches with a "Meet and Greet" person who has the list of arrivals.  This person greets the people, coordinates their luggage and helps them depart with the correct driver and luggage.  Often, passengers are arriving at both terminals simultaneously and this same "Meet and Greet" service must be provided at each terminal.  That's all part of Sanibel Taxi's  hospitality and service to its passengers.

With the new airport regulations and restrictions it's very difficult for drivers to do the kind of job for which the company is noted, but they're to work around the restrictions and still offer high quality airport services.

Taylor estimate that 70 percent of their trips are to and from the airport while the remaining 30 percent are for personal errands, dinner engagements and emergencies.  Whenever customers have reservations to be met on an incoming flight, the driver remains on duty after the office closes and meets the delayed flight.  Each week there are several flights arriving after midnight and meeting these flights, whether late or on time, is a Sanibel Taxi expectation.  Again, this is the quality service upon which the company has built its reputation with competitive fares, dependability, punctuality, honesty and, for greater convenience, a toll free number for customer use throughout the United States.

"These islands are a very rare place.  Most of the places have been over-commercialized with high rise condos and wall to wall concrete. Sanibel incorporated at the right time before the island got out of hand.  Francis Bailey and Porter Goss did a fantastic job of controlling it.  In this kind of community we have built our business and have become a part of the islands,"  Taylor observes.

From the Islander
by Nancy Santeusanio
Special to The Islander