‘My goal is not to put people out of work’

In August, Jim Porter founded “To the Bottom and Back,” a free late-night shuttle service connecting the Fan and Shockoe Bottom via Main and Cary streets. His two converted school buses run on a continuous loop three nights a week through the heart of Richmond’s nightlife, servicing more than 2,000 people each weekend.

And the cab companies are livid.

“Sometimes the cab companies will call us and hang up, or swear at me or tell me I better watch out,” said Porter.

On three or four occasions, 2BNB has called the Richmond police. Porter referenced one incident of a cab driver cutting in front of a bus and slamming on the breaks repeatedly.

“I don’t want to whine every time,” said Porter, “but I’m afraid the buses will get vandalized or the tires will get slashed.”

Porter, who drove a cab for six months while developing the idea for 2BNB, says he initially approached several cab companies asking for advertising to help fund drunk driving literature.

“I pitched to Yellow Cab and some of the other companies about getting their numbers out, because I know I can help their business,” said Porter. “I take a lot of people to cabs every night, and I know I could give a cab company 60 trips a week.”

Deborah Roger of Deb’s Taxi is one of the more outspoken opponents of 2BNB, even calling the service illegal on the organization’s Facebook page. Roger’s main issue is 2BNB’s shuttling of special events, specifically the Strawberry Hills races a few weekends ago.

“They’re advertising one thing and doing something else,” said Roger. “It’s supposed to be a shuttle. Shuttles and taxis are different things. That’s what I’m calling illegal.”

Roger said she typically makes a lot of money on the weekend of the races but wasn’t able to get as many runs as in the past, and she attributes this to Porter and his buses. She also says 2BNB’s regular late-night run threatens the health of Richmond’s cab industry.

“He’s affecting our livelihood,” said Roger. “We can’t make money on the weekend because everyone wants to get on the bus. Our work is being taken because someone put the word free in front of it.”

When Porter first heard of Roger’s comments on Facebook, he called her at 4 a.m., when his shift was over, waking her up.

“I told her that we’re absolutely not illegal,” said Porter. “If we were illegal, Richmond would have shut us down by now.”

One of Porter’s more serious allegations also comes from the Strawberry Hills races, and involves the two-year-old Napoleon Taxi Service. On that day, a 2BNB driver informed Porter that a Napoleon driver was cursing at the bus, saying, “Tell Jim we’re going to f**k him up.”

Napoleon President Jonathon Trainum said that he doesn’t think a Napoleon driver worked the races but that he takes such allegations extremely seriously. Once informed of the claim, Trainum attempted to contact Porter, but no meeting has occurred.

Trainum, whose 14-taxi fleet is the second largest in Richmond, views 2BNB in a much more favorable light than Roger does and says the service has had a neutral to positive effect on his company.

“It hasn’t really affected us that much,” said Trainum. “If a cab is sitting outside of a bar, and the bus has just left, that person is more likely to hop in one of our cabs than sit around waiting for a bus.”

Trainum said he does wish the buses were subject to the same type of regulations as cabs, but he cited the economy as a more serious threat to his business.

Porter names Veteran’s Taxi and Yellow Cab as other sources of harassment.

“My goal is not to put people out of work,” said Porter. “I have bigger ambitions than that.”

A reporter called the bus down to Shockoe Bottom in an attempt to witness any form of harassment, or bus-over-cab preference. He told the driver he was waiting at the corner of Stafford and Cary, deep in the Fan.

Only one bus was running that night, and after 20 minutes the green-and-black school bus appeared. The reporter signaled to the bus, and one of the riders raised a red cup, but the bus did not stop.

Drew Jackson is Richmond-based journalist. Please send news tips to [email protected]

In August, Jim Porter founded “To the Bottom and Back,” a free late-night shuttle service connecting the Fan and Shockoe Bottom via Main and Cary streets. His two converted school buses run on a continuous loop three nights a week through the heart of Richmond’s nightlife, servicing more than 2,000 people each weekend.

And the cab companies are livid.

“Sometimes the cab companies will call us and hang up, or swear at me or tell me I better watch out,” said Porter.

On three or four occasions, 2BNB has called the Richmond police. Porter referenced one incident of a cab driver cutting in front of a bus and slamming on the breaks repeatedly.

“I don’t want to whine every time,” said Porter, “but I’m afraid the buses will get vandalized or the tires will get slashed.”

Porter, who drove a cab for six months while developing the idea for 2BNB, says he initially approached several cab companies asking for advertising to help fund drunk driving literature.

“I pitched to Yellow Cab and some of the other companies about getting their numbers out, because I know I can help their business,” said Porter. “I take a lot of people to cabs every night, and I know I could give a cab company 60 trips a week.”

Deborah Roger of Deb’s Taxi is one of the more outspoken opponents of 2BNB, even calling the service illegal on the organization’s Facebook page. Roger’s main issue is 2BNB’s shuttling of special events, specifically the Strawberry Hills races a few weekends ago.

“They’re advertising one thing and doing something else,” said Roger. “It’s supposed to be a shuttle. Shuttles and taxis are different things. That’s what I’m calling illegal.”

Roger said she typically makes a lot of money on the weekend of the races but wasn’t able to get as many runs as in the past, and she attributes this to Porter and his buses. She also says 2BNB’s regular late-night run threatens the health of Richmond’s cab industry.

“He’s affecting our livelihood,” said Roger. “We can’t make money on the weekend because everyone wants to get on the bus. Our work is being taken because someone put the word free in front of it.”

When Porter first heard of Roger’s comments on Facebook, he called her at 4 a.m., when his shift was over, waking her up.

“I told her that we’re absolutely not illegal,” said Porter. “If we were illegal, Richmond would have shut us down by now.”

One of Porter’s more serious allegations also comes from the Strawberry Hills races, and involves the two-year-old Napoleon Taxi Service. On that day, a 2BNB driver informed Porter that a Napoleon driver was cursing at the bus, saying, “Tell Jim we’re going to f**k him up.”

Napoleon President Jonathon Trainum said that he doesn’t think a Napoleon driver worked the races but that he takes such allegations extremely seriously. Once informed of the claim, Trainum attempted to contact Porter, but no meeting has occurred.

Trainum, whose 14-taxi fleet is the second largest in Richmond, views 2BNB in a much more favorable light than Roger does and says the service has had a neutral to positive effect on his company.

“It hasn’t really affected us that much,” said Trainum. “If a cab is sitting outside of a bar, and the bus has just left, that person is more likely to hop in one of our cabs than sit around waiting for a bus.”

Trainum said he does wish the buses were subject to the same type of regulations as cabs, but he cited the economy as a more serious threat to his business.

Porter names Veteran’s Taxi and Yellow Cab as other sources of harassment.

“My goal is not to put people out of work,” said Porter. “I have bigger ambitions than that.”

A reporter called the bus down to Shockoe Bottom in an attempt to witness any form of harassment, or bus-over-cab preference. He told the driver he was waiting at the corner of Stafford and Cary, deep in the Fan.

Only one bus was running that night, and after 20 minutes the green-and-black school bus appeared. The reporter signaled to the bus, and one of the riders raised a red cup, but the bus did not stop.

Drew Jackson is Richmond-based journalist. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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Matt
Matt
12 years ago

Keep up the good work Mr. Porter. If the cab companies want to hold their market share, make them do it with good business practices.

FanGuy
FanGuy
12 years ago

Cab service in Richmond is awful and has been for some time. I’ve waited HOURS to get a cab in home from the near West End before after calling and being told a cab was on its way.

BNB is a great and very much needed service.

Robinson Street
Robinson Street
12 years ago

Mr Porter is providing a great service. Most of these riders either wouldn’t have gone downtown, or they would’ve all piled into one car. Cab drivers better worry more about any future services provided by GRTC, if they ever get to control their own routes. 2BNB is not at all in competition with cabs. If anything it’s making people more likely to need a direct ride home late at night, which could mean using a cab.

Igor
Igor
12 years ago

If the cab drivers keep focusing on external reasons why they are not doing well, they will never succeed. How about they focus on improving their service instead? It would definitely be a lot more productive. Focusing their efforts on blaming Mr. Porter is very short-sighted and will only hurt them. Trainium has the best and most productive outlook on the situation. I personally would never use a Richmond cab to go out downtown. I would either ride with friends or not go out downtown and would consider riding on Mr. Porter’s bus. I don’t think that the two services… Read more »

Mariane
Mariane
12 years ago

Didn’t the vandalism he feared would happen just happen?

Ren Schmidt
Ren Schmidt
12 years ago

The cab service is horrible in Richmond, often making people wait a very long time after saying, “we will be there in 15 minutes”. I’ve also had them be rude and take me on longer routes than necessary. It’s easier to place the blame on someone else then look at yourself and see what needs improvement.

Mr. Porter is keeping drunk students off the streets, good for him!

Tyler Miller
Tyler Miller
12 years ago

Love what you guys are doing. You save live every night. Maybe our taxi drivers need to lower there rates and then they will have more customers. Our transportation system is horrible in Richmond. The big green bus is a great start to fixing the problem.

Anne
Anne
12 years ago

If the cab service in Richmond was that great, 2BNB wouldn’t have come about. What the cab companies should do is arrange to pick up riders from the dropoff points in the fan. I often wonder how the riders of the bus get back to their actual houses. Seems to be an opportunity they’re ignoring so they can complain.

james
james
12 years ago

Taxi service in Richmond is abysmal and obscenely expensive. It’s $40 plus tip from the Colonial Downs OTA on Broad to Short Pump — about an 11-mile ride that takes 20 minutes tops. If 2BNB was all over Richmond it would put GRTC out of business. Jim Porter’s got the right idea, and if the cabbies threaten you again, tape it and have them arrested for making terroristic threats.

Ray Santucci
Ray Santucci
12 years ago

I found it cheaper to hire a limo for the evening than to try to get a cab to drop you and then pick you up a few hours later. If the cab companies would work together and get a dependable service going that people can count on, their business would increase despite what the free bus is doing. After all there are a lot of people that would love to go downtown for the night but do not want to drive. Not every one lives in the fan and back. Also you are hurting business by not doing your… Read more »

Mark S.
Mark S.
12 years ago

You know, 2BNB seems to only be known for its “nightlife” routes but I was approached by a company representative for a donation and given a press kit of theirs. They spend a great deal of time helping other non-profits, and the less fortunate, with transportation, including Habitat for Humanity, The Giving Heart and Art 180. This company is so much more than what is reported. The preventing drinking and driving is great and their service is much needed in this city, but that alone does not qualify you as a non-profit. (See IRS code). Keep up the great work,… Read more »

Dreuw
Dreuw
12 years ago

Cab fares in Richmond are astronomical at best. Service and time it takes to get one is abysmal at best. Now you’re mad someone is doing something good for free? It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the rates local cab companies charge are absurdly overpriced. Try adding more cabs and lower fares and then maybe you’ll have a reason to be angry about someone picking up your slack for free.

robin
robin
12 years ago

It seems to me if Taxi companies are worried about competing with a shuttle service, maybe they should start providing their own shuttles,have them follow a few set routes between good venues and maybe have end to end taxi service at the terminal points. The theory being that if you can’t compete with one service, provide a better one

2BNB Driver
2BNB Driver
12 years ago

I havent experienced any issues with the cabbies. We do get negative feedback from our riders of what the cabbies are saying. In essence it is a he said she said thing, but it’s frequent enough to keep a watchful eye. The cab companies have soo much potential to harness and tap into, meeting the needs of a customer base that we cannot. I believe that any animosity derives from complacency in the status quo. Not everyone likes Pepsi, some like Coke, options should be available to meet the needs of the community. The overwhelming support, hand shakes, knuckle bumps,… Read more »