A Madison taxi service is entering Janesville’s dwindling taxicab market, and it is bringing with it a small fleet of all-electric vehicles.
Under a plan by Madison-based sister companies Green Cab and mobile app software company Mobile22, the companies plan on Monday to expand services with a satellite taxi depot in Janesville.
Mobile22 Marketing Director Jessica Wagner said the companies plan to roll out a taxi service in Janesville for rides and business deliveries, initially using a fleet of four all-electric Tesla Model 3 sedans.
Green Cab bills itself as the first all-electric vehicle taxicab company in the U.S.
Wagner said it is the first time Green Cab has expanded its services outside Madison. She said the company chose Janesville in part because it’s the largest urban area between Madison and Rockford, Illinois, cities that both operate major airports.
Green Cab’s Janesville fleet will run out of a depot at 118 Freedom Lane on the city’s south side. That location will serve as a garage with an electrical charging station for the cab company’s Teslas, which run off battery systems, Wagner said.
Wagner said Green Cab aims to fill a niche in Janesville—grocery trips. The city’s south side is still without a supermarket in the wake of Pick ‘n’ Save closing in 2017. That has left residents on the south side in a food desert with limited options for fresh food and groceries.
Residents who don’t or can’t drive have said it is difficult to get to the city’s north side for grocery runs.
Initially, Green Cab will run Janesville services weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Wagner said that days or hours of service could change based on trends in local ridership.
Green Cab’s use of electric cars won the company kudos last year from a Dane County climate-change task force. The expansion to Janesville comes at a time when taxi companies face growing pressure by mobile app-driven ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.
In Janesville, traditional taxi companies have dwindled, and in recent years, some have struggled to stay in business because overhead costs make it difficult to compete with rideshare services that use independent contractors—drivers who supply their own cars and get a cut of each fare.
Ben Hagy, a daytime driver for LME Transportation, a Janesville taxi and shuttle service, said he thinks LME has recently been the only taxi service in Janesville with an active city taxi license.
City Clerk-Treasurer David Godek indicated that prior to Green Cab's entry, the city had one active taxicab license on file.
Hagy said he thinks one other Janesville taxi business no longer runs a taxi fleet. Instead, he said, that cab company jobs out its fares to drivers for Uber and Lyft.
Wagner said Green Cab conceives itself as a traditional taxi company with a hybrid approach.
Riders can opt to use the service for their own fares or ride with others who are heading in the same direction at a reduced rate, she said.
Mobile22 operates as a software company that supports a mobile app that Green Cab uses to book fares by daily or weekly users.
Wagner said Mobile22 plans to launch a Janesville-centric version of its mobile app in Janesville in April. Until then, riders would have to contact the service by phone.
Green Cab has run in Madison for a decade as a taxi service with a hybrid vehicle fleet. In 2019, after it was bought out by taxi, rideshare and transit app provider Zerology, the company switched its fleet to all electric vehicles.
Green Cab officials said they believe some of the company’s most popular services—transport to and medical appointments and grocery stores and business delivery—will see stable demand despite impacts of the pandemic.
Green Cab said it has added new protections in its cabs during the pandemic to help keep riders safe.
The company’s Teslas are equipped with plexiglass dividers between the driver and passengers, and drivers are required to wear face coverings and clean the vehicles in between each fare, Green Cab officials said.
This story has been modified from an earlier version to include information on city taxicab licensure from Janesville City Clerk-Treasurer David Godek.