Green Taxi got approval Monday from the Montana Public Service Commission to carry Missoula residents to the doctor and other medical appointments.
“So many people just helped make this all come together, and the right decision prevailed because it was just so obvious to me that this was something that was so needed,” said Jessica Murray, co-owner of Green Taxi.
In a 5-0 vote, however, the all-Republican commission also denied the company’s request to operate its cabs in Flathead, Yellowstone, Lake and Ravalli counties.
The Public Service Commission regulates utilities in Montana, including private transportation services.
The PSC originally prohibited Green Taxi from taking riders to regular medical appointments that weren’t emergencies, but in its fourth year of operation, the company asked commissioners for the authority to carry those passengers.
At a hearing in Missoula, many witnesses testified they couldn’t get to doctors’ appointments on time – or sometimes at all – using existing cab services.
“This decision is in response to the people of Missoula who rely on taxis to get to medical appointments,” said Commissioner Bob Lake, whose district represents Missoula. “It just increases their options.”
Commissioner Travis Kavulla wrote the proposed order, which the commission adopted. Kavulla said the decision isn’t just good news for the applicant, it’s significant for other entrepreneurs who want to get involved in the cab business.
“We’ve sort of said, for the first time, that competition is presumed to be in the public interest, which is certainly a departure from how the law on motor carriers often works,” Kavulla said.
Murray, with Green Taxi, said she hopes the company sees a growth in business as it begins to fill the medical niche: “We were hoping to have a whole car dedicated just to the medical piece. We want to fill that void.”
Yellow Cab and Medicab also carry medical passengers, and they and Valet Limousine opposed Green Taxi’s request.
According to a news release, Green Taxi has 30 days to complete paperwork with the agency; once complete, the company may begin its expanded service.
“No changes in rates are permitted at this time,” the release states.