LEWISTON — The community's familiar black and yellow cabs will soon be parked to stay.
City Cab, which has been collecting fares since 1932, is scheduled to shut down at the end of the night Saturday.
Owner Daniel Leonas said the longtime company, based in a garage on Avon Street in Lewiston, has been hurt by the economy and city-run alternatives.
"The Twin Cities are no longer a viable taxicab community with major competition from all the non-profit social service transit options and the free and subsidized public bus fares being provided within Lewiston and Auburn," Leonas said Wednesday in a prepared statement.
"In combination with the economy, I find it is no longer an option to provide affordable taxicab service to the community while maintaining our professional dispatch center," he said.
Leonas notified City Hall of the closure on Monday.
"After 80 years, we are sad to say that the family business will no longer exist," he said in an email to City Administrator Edward Barrett.
City Cab is the last of the radio-dispatched cab companies in the city and the largest, with six cars licensed in Lewiston.
In all, 58 people are licensed to drive taxis in the city. Five other cab companies are currently licensed to operate here: Baagey Taxicab of Lewiston, Five Stars Taxi of Auburn, L&A Cab Service of Auburn, Lisbon Taxi Co. of Lisbon Falls and Tri-Town Taxi of Lewiston, City Clerk Kathy Montejo said.
More cab companies will likely sink unless profit margins rise, Matt Boyington, owner of Tri-Town Taxi, said.
"I'm just trying to hang on and not go more into debt," Boyington said.
He started his company 14 years ago in Lisbon but moved to Lewiston several years ago in search of more riders.
They appear sometimes.
"For the first week of the month, I've got enough calls to make my money," Boyington said, referring to the arrival of welfare money. "By the end of the month, too many people can't afford six or seven bucks to ride across town."
Meanwhile, fuel costs have been difficult to manage and ill-repaired streets force him to make costly repairs to his cars, he said.
Boyington has two cars currently on the road.
"I have to rebuild the entire front ends twice a year," he said. He can only afford those repairs because he and a friend do the work themselves.
It's uncertain what the absence of City Cab will mean to people who use them for doctor appointments, often with so-called "med passes." The cab company was the only one in the community that accepted the vouchers.
Boyington said he would consider taking on voucher customers, but it needs to pay for itself.
"I've got to do it for a profit," he said.
Phil Nadeau, Lewiston's assistant city administrator, said he was saddened to hear of City Cab's closure.
However, he holds out hope that local taxis can find a way to make money, as long as they settle on a common system.
Currently, fares are decided by travel among several zones. Between points in the downtown, the fare is $4.70. The charge increases as different zones of Lewiston-Auburn are traveled.
Companies have not asked for a rate change in several years. The last change, initiated in 2006, created a fuel surcharge.
Nadeau said he worked out a plan for meters in cabs, eventually supported by City Cab. But it was discarded when it failed to receive backing by the other companies.
"We're trying to reassess the whole transportation model in the city," Nadeau said.