Cheap Taxi joins Johnson City offerings

Gary B. Gray • Feb 26, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Michael Mahara’s Cheap Taxi has become Johnson City’s fourth choice among taxi services in a city the owner sees as a quickly expanding market.

There are now three licensed operators in Johnson City: W.W. Taxi Co., Reliable Taxi and Cheap Taxi. Uber, which is not licensed by the city, is the fourth option.

City commissioners granted Mahara a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity last week to legally operate the business at 802 S. Roan St.

“I’m just crawling now before I walk,” Mahara said Friday from Rick’s Wreckers, where he’s been given some office space to launch the business. “I’ve been in the cab business for almost my entire life.

“Right now it’s one car, and me and two other drivers, but that will change. Johnson City is growing by leaps and bounds, and the market is there. I felt that Johnson City officials wanted more cab companies. We’re experiencing growth. ETSU is growing, the north side is growing and a lot of bars don’t have adequate parking.”

Mahara worked for Bob Wilson, the former owner of Diamond Cab. He also drove for W.W. and Reliable before deciding to start his own company.

“I decided to do it to honor Bob Wilson,” he said. “He’s in bad health now. He treated me like his son. I like people, and I treat everybody the way I want to be treated. We will go as far as a customer wants. We’ll go to Chicago if that’s where you want to go.”

Cheap Taxi’s rates are comparable to W.W. and Reliable, and a trip from downtown to Tri-Cities Airport will run you about $20, he said. That’s about $5 less than other companies.

Mahara offers veterans and seniors $1 off the cost of any trip, and says he is the only one that does so. All drivers must pass background checks, acquire what’s known as an “F” class license and pass a complete physical.

“I don’t want drivers that look like they work at a junkyard,” he said. “I want them to look professional. Ninety percent of this is the driver.”

Uber rides can be automatically charged to credit cards connected to your digital Uber account. In most cities, you can get a look at upfront fares, though fares may go up or down based on how many people are requesting a ride.

“Uber is not required to be licensed by Johnson City, and drivers don’t have to have a specific license,” Mahara said. “Uber — at its roots — is very impersonal. Many people that need to get to the store or pharmacy on a regular basis like familiarity. They like to know who they’re going to get.”

Cheap Taxi can be reached at (423) 833-8403.

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