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Frank Gray

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Cab-call cards: Safety, savings

Trees

Dawn Trees drives a taxi seven days a week in Fort Wayne, and she describes herself as a therapist, direction finder, counselor, and sometimes just company for someone who wants to go for a ride and talk to someone for a little while.

And occasionally she drives a drunken partyer home.

That doesn’t bother her. She said she grew up with a violent alcoholic and wouldn’t even get in the car when they were driving. Just last week, she says, she almost got hit head-on by a drunken driver.

So when she picks up a guy who’s had too much to drink, she figures she’s done a public service of sorts, saving him potential trouble, keeping an intoxicated driver off the road, and she makes a little bit of money at it, too.

About a year ago, she started pondering the whole issue. Taxis in Fort Wayne are expensive. Taxi companies charge pickup fees and $2.50 a mile or more, and some charge a fuel surcharge on top of that, making a ride home from a bar a pricey proposition.

So Trees came up with an idea. She’d print up some cards, membership cards of a sort, and charge $10 for them. They’d be good for three months, and customers with the card would get a 10 percent discount on fares.

That might give people an incentive to call a cab when they’d had too much to drink. The card could pay for itself within just a couple of trips.

Meanwhile, she said, she has customers she takes to doctor’s appointments and others who ride the bus to work but need a ride home at night after the buses shut down. So she’d make the same offer to those customers.

But she didn’t want to stop there. There are other cab drivers in the city. She’s trying to get some of them involved, too.

It might not work for every cab driver, Trees acknowledges. Some drivers, like her, are contract drivers. They pay a flat fee for the use of the cab and hope to find enough fares to make a living.

They would make good candidates.

Other cab drivers split their fares with the cab owner, so they might not be interested.

But Trees has talked to some, and one seems ready to sign on and another is pondering it, not bad for an idea that was made known only a few days ago.

When you think about it, it’s not a bad trade – a $10 ticket and a discounted fare in exchange for a way to dodge a drunken-driving charge.

But Trees does need one thing. If you’re going to party until you’re blind, you’ve got to schedule the ride home by calling her at 210-8288 well in advance, because she’s got other fares, too.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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