Cab company could stymie Fort Gordon bus plan

Corporate attorneys at Yellow Cab of Augusta are reviewing an exclusive transportation contract the company has with Fort Gordon to see whether it can stop the city from expanding bus service to the Army post, an official said Monday.

It is unclear whether the one-year deal – which began April 1 and has a four-year option that can be extended by Fort Gordon at the end of March – applies only to taxi services.

Kenneth Hughes, the general manager of Yellow Cab of Augusta, said he believes that the terms include all transportation services and that adding a city bus route to Fort Gordon would breach the cab company’s agreement.

On Monday, City Administrator Fred Russell presented the Augusta Commission with a $321,000 plan to establish a Monday-through-Saturday route from Fort Gordon to Augusta Mall. No action was taken.

“Our attorneys are trying to figure out what the city is trying to do and if they can,” Hughes said of a bus route serving Fort Gordon. “Personally, I just don’t see where there is a need. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, if you ask me.”

On Monday morning, Hughes said he had nearly 50 cabs – 10 more than his company is contractually obligated to provide – circulating the 55,000-acre Army post, which has a military population of 15,000 and a residential population of 2,800 families.

“Everything is lovely – smooth as could be,” Hughes said of his operations at Fort Gordon. “Probably the best it has ever been.”

Under the terms of the contract Yellow Cab has with Fort Gordon, the taxi company must provide a minimum of 40 cabs and pay $305 per taxi each month into the post’s non-appropriated fund.

Regular fare on the city’s Augusta Mall bus route is $1.25. For Fort Gordon passengers wanting a ride to the mall, Yellow cab charges the first rider $12 and each additional passenger an extra $6, according to its contract with the post.

Fort Gordon spokesman J.C. Mathews said in a statement that post leadership has not yet exercised the option for next year but is aware of Yellow Cab’s concerns.

“We’re mindful of the concerns expressed by the Yellow Cab Co. regarding the proposal for bus service on Fort Gordon,” Mathews said. “We will continue working discussions with city officials and ensure that any decisions reached regarding bus service on the installation will comply with all legal requirements and obligations.”

According to a Fort Gordon report published online last spring, Yellow Cab is the only taxi company permitted on the post, under the terms of the contract.

Mathews said that in order for a copy of the contract to be released, the news media would have to submit a Freedom of Information request to the Army. The Augusta Chronicle submitted a request, but it had yet to be fulfilled Monday.

Hughes contended a bus route to Fort Gordon would slow traffic and increase security concerns.

All of Hughes’ drivers must pass a background check, a drug screening and security clearance before being allowed to enter Fort Gordon.

It is unclear whether such a process would be enforced for city bus drivers. At the moment, the Fort Gordon route would make four stops on federal property and force passengers without permission to access Fort Gordon to wait at the post visitor center.

“There’s more to it than just going out on that base,” Hughes said.

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