Once fought, 303 Cab now rules in Evanston
Taxi driver Mohamad Salih waits in line with other cabs in downtown Evanston on Thursday. Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2013 6:13AM
For some three decades, Norshore Cab Association, with its yellow and red cabs, has stood as the dominant cab company in Evanston.
That is about to change, though, with the company’s one time competitor, 303 Taxi, about to acquire the association.
Norshore members accepted 303’s offer at an association meeting a few weeks ago, confirmed Henry Elizar, president of 303.
Unofficially talks have been going on about year in what Elizar referred to as a “merger.”
“Because they have a lot of owners,’’ he explained, ‘’it was kind of hard to have consensus on their parts.”
Norshore holds about 65 medallions or licenses to operate within the city. The company fought fiercely when a few cabs from then Wilmette-based 303, in their turquoise and white colors, began showing up on Evanston streets in the 1980s.
However, the company gained a toehold and now has about 40 drivers licensed to operate in Evanston, said Elizar. Overall, the company, now based in Chicago, off River Road, is much bigger.
“We have almost 600 cars in the suburbs and we have about 1,000 cabs in Chicago,’’ said Elizar.
In addition, the company has superior technology, including a state of the art dispatch system.
Norshore saw “the writing on the wall,’’ surmised Elizar.
“Our dispatch service was superior and our management was better,” he said.
With Norshore, loosely confederated, “it was like the Soviet Union,’’ said Elizar, who emmigrated from Russia. “When everything belongs to everybody, nobody cares.”
Under the merger, Norshore will receive the dispatch service and support services from 303, with drivers dues, approaching $350 a month going to the new owners.
Walter Wolff, longtime Norshore president, didn’t contest Elizar’s assertions about superior technology.
“With the economy, the way it has been, it’s been awfully tough to keep up with the technology today,” he said. “It’s very expensive. We had some really tough times.”
Wolff said the improved dispatch service should cut response time from five to three minutes on Evanston calls.
He said 303 also has phones conveniently placed at the airport. The company also offers a driver education program, something Norshore started but hasn’t been able to carry out consistently, with changeover in the new driver ranks, he said.
Norshore cabs will retain their look. Both Wolff and Elizar indicated plans call to use the space that once housed Norshore dispatch services, atop the Davis Street Metra station.
However, in a visit to the station on Dec. 27, the offices looked shuttered.
Under city code, every taxicab licensee is required to maintain, “within the city,” an office or principal place of business which provides 24-hour per day telephone service.
Steve O’Sullivan, the city’s license and measures inspector, could not be reached for comment on how code would apply with the change.
303 cabs already outnumbered Norshore cabs at a stand near the Hotel Orrington on Thursday.
The merger, when it takes place, might not be that great, surmised 303 driver Mohamad Salih, except Norshore will have to take better care of their cars.
A Norshore cab parked two vehicles behind him showed a deep paint smudge on its front end.
For 303 drivers, an owner of a damaged car “has to stop,’’ and take care of it, he suggested.