I have a soft spot for family businesses, especially when they’re based in Forest Park. Blue Cab Co. checks these boxes. It is also the best option for getting to and from our airports.
Blue Cab Co.* has been a family enterprise, ever since two brothers founded it in 1923. The company was first based in Oak Park and remained there for 77 years. In the 1950s, the Bennett family purchased Blue Cab and the family matriarch is president. Jim Bennett serves as general manager. The company built a new facility in Forest Park in 2000 that includes a repair center.
Bennett has guided the company through the most challenging years they have ever faced. First was fierce competition from ride-share companies. Bennett believes the ride-share companies have an unfair advantage over cab companies because taxis are more tightly regulated.
Blue Cab is licensed in every community it serves. Their hybrid cabs undergo regular inspections. Their drivers must have chauffer licenses. The Forest Park Police Department conducts background checks of every driver. Some people feel trepidation about riding in a car with a stranger. They should know that cab drivers are more thoroughly vetted than ride-share drivers.
Ride-share companies grabbed a percentage of Blue Cab passengers. But that loss was nothing compared to the impact of the pandemic. Starting with the March 2020 lockdown, employees were no longer traveling to work. Many are still working from home.
The company didn’t just lose passengers, they lost drivers. Many older drivers did not feel safe driving strangers. The company sanitized the cabs and provided masks and gloves to the drivers, but the pandemic idled 75% of their fleet. The company has rebounded but the number of drivers is still down.
Bennett feels for the drivers, many of whom are owner-operators. He pointed out that Blue Cab passengers are supporting a person, not a faceless corporation. Many drivers have become friends with their regular passengers. The drivers and office staff are incredibly loyal. Most have worked at Blue Cab for over 30 years.
The company is almost a century old but had to modernize to survive. For example, Blue Cab has contracted with health insurers to transport patients to their doctor’s office and hospital visits. They also deliver packages.
Their biggest innovation, though, was installing computers in the cabs, with plans to equip every cab with a tablet. They are also constantly upgrading their software to streamline operations. Customer calls are fielded by operators in the Philippines.
We booked rides with these operators for a recent trip to San Diego. Blue Cab made getting to Midway Airport painless, for a $25 flat rate. For the return trip from O’Hare, I booked Blue Cab to pick us up. The company tracks flights using the airline websites. Our driver called just after we landed. It was reassuring to know he was there to meet us at Arrivals. The flat rate was again $25.
This was way more reasonable than a ride-share company, or a city cab. Plus, we had that pleasant feeling of supporting an individual who drives for a hometown company.
*Full disclosure, I have driven for Blue Cab and ride-share companies.