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Chicago taxi firm enters Baltimore market

A Chicago-based taxicab company has grabbed a big chunk of the market in Maryland since August, buying four cab companies and a fleet of nearly 200 vehicles.

The Levine/Corrigan Group, which owns Yellow Cab Chicago Inc., has snapped up Arrow Cab and Baltimore City Taxi in Baltimore and Cab Connection in Anne Arundel County as well as County Cab in Baltimore County.

Mike Levine, a third-generation cab operator from New York City, said getting entry into the Baltimore market was the main driver behind the deals. He said the regulations in Baltimore limiting the number of cabs, in addition to having factors like an Amtrak stop at Penn Station, made the city an attractive market.

“We like Baltimore as a taxicab kind of town,” Levine said. “It has a good operating environment that we liked.”

Levine declined to disclose the purchase price of the local cab companies.

The state Public Service Commission regulates taxis in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Cumberland and Hagerstown. In Anne Arundel County, cabs are regulated by the Commercial Licensing Division of Inspections and Permits.

Since taking over the companies at the end of August, Levine said the priority has been to swap out the fleet of cars the various companies had. He said most of the cabs were older, larger models that got bad gas mileage and did little to engender good feelings from customers.

“When I saw the condition of the cars in the fleet, I said, ‘This is unacceptable,’” he said. “We’re in the process of completely replacing the entire fleet and we should have it done by the end of the year.”

Levine said the new fleet will consist of Toyota Camry hybrids, 2012 Scion Xbs and Hyundai Sonatas, all equipped with credit card machines and GPS dispatching.

He said production delays in Japan have delayed some of the replacements, but he was still optimistic the replacement vehicles could be obtained in short order.

Other additions to the businesses include online reservations and mobile phone applications to make reservations.

In Chicago Levine and his partner, Patton Corrigan, own the Yellow Cab company and Checker Cab company.

In Baltimore, Levine and Corrigan will be going head-to-head with Yellow Cab of Baltimore, a subsidiary of public transportation giant Veolia Transportation. Veolia also owns the Checker Cab Association and Sun Cabs in Baltimore as well as Jimmy’s Taxi in Baltimore County.

Levine said he had no plans to change the names or color schemes of the cab companies he and his partner purchased.

“It’s strange, but what are we going to do? We’re Yellow and Checker in Chicago,” Levine said. “We don’t need to be Yellow Cab or the biggest, just the best. And, it really comes down to the cars and what shape they’re in.”