Alpine Taxi's family grows

Owner acquires competitor's assets

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A year after purchasing Alpine Taxi from her employer, Lisa Adamo has acquired the assets of one of her competitors.

Adamo recently purchased eight vehicles from Black Dia--mond Limousine, solidifying her company's position as Steamboat Springs' only year-round taxi service.

Last year, Adamo leveraged partial ownership in Alpine Taxi into an outright purchase from longtime owner Marty Waldron.

Adamo, who worked for the company for 15 years before purchasing it in 2004, stresses the family atmosphere among her employees.

The company employs 50 people during the summer, including mechanics. The number of employees balloons to more than 150, including some part-time drivers, in ski season.

"We have an amazing team of people dedicated to making sure people get safe, friendly service," Adamo said.

The acquisition of Black Diamond's vehicles leaves Storm Mountain Express as Alpine's only competition at YVRA.

Black Diamond's owners ap----proached her about purchasing their fleet at a point when the timing was good for Alpine, Adamo said.

"We lose money (strictly on its transportation operations) eight months of the year," she said. "We need to make enough in winter to sustain our summer services. If we hadn't purchased Black Diamond's vehicles, we would have had to consider reducing summer service" to DIA.

Although the sale creates a near monopoly on taxi service in Routt County, customers won't see the company charging exhorbitant rates in its captive market.

Taxi and limousine companies are regulated by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. PUC spokesman Terry Bote said the law allows for just one full-service taxi company to be permitted in markets of less than 60,000 unless a strong case can be made for permitting a second company.

Essentially, the state recognizes a "regulated monopoly," Bote said.

And if ferrying thousands of vacationers and their skis back and forth to Steamboat at $44 a roundtrip for adults looks like a cash cow from a distance, Adamo said nobody is getting rich.

"We're out to do a good job and employ our employees," she said. "I do this because I love business. We have fun. We laugh every day."

The challenge is maintaining a vehicle fleet and an employee base big enough to meet demand during the profitable ski season, while keeping a core staff employed full time and meeting the community's year-round transportation needs, Adamo said.

In addition to call-in taxi service, Alpine depends heavily on airport shuttles to Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The company offers five roundtrips to Denver International Airport per day during ski season and three roundtrips in the summer.

Before the Black Diamond ac--quisition, Adamo had a fleet of 75 vehicles parked in the lot behind Alpine Taxi's headquarters. The large majority of the vehicles are owned by the company but sit idle for most of the year.

Although Adamo says Alpine loses money for much of the year, the company does finish in the black. Alpine balances its revenues with sources other than fares. The company hands slim folders filled with promotional materials from local businesses to its passengers. The fees collected from the promotional clients represent a good revenue stream.

Alpine also employs a staff of mechanics who work in a couple of repair bays at the rear of the building on U.S. Highway 40. They work not only on Alpine's fleet but also on shuttle vans operated by property management companies.

"We have excellent mechanics and they keep us going," Adamo said.

Adamo's operating margins will grow if she is successful in a petition Alpine filed with the PUC on Wednesday. It seeks permission for Alpine Taxi to add surcharges charged by Routt County as an additional airport fee on customers' bills.

County Manager Tom Sulli--van said Routt County and Alpine are in the midst of a five-year contract with two years remaining. Currently, the contract calls for Alpine to pay the county 7 percent of its gross revenues derived from airport operations. The contract ratchets upward on an annual basis, Sullivan said.

"I decided that rather than seeking a rate increase, I would ask to show that as an airport fee so passengers know what portion (of their bill) is an airport fee," Adamo said.

"Essentially, they've asked for the ability to pass along those fees to their customer," Bote said.

Alpine Taxi's license is the only one locally that permits it to accept "walk-up" business from passengers arriving at the airport who haven't already made ground transfer arrangements.

Alpine Taxi's general manager Mark Walker said the company puts safety ahead of customer service, but still has high expectations of its employees in terms of customer service and the experience that arriving and departing guests take with them.

"We are the first and last impressions they have," Walker said. "We do not take that lightly. We have some real characters driving for us. I think they're ambassadors for the community."

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