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Replacements Arrive at John Wayne as American Taxi Fleet Is Repossessed

Transportation: Airport officials report a smooth transition to service by three new firms.

November 29, 2001|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Replacement taxis began lining up at John Wayne Airport's arrival terminal Wednesday afternoon, signaling the end of service after 18 months by financially troubled American Livery Inc., which had its cabs repossessed.

Because of tight security, about 50 replacement cabs assembled at a nearby parking lot before going into the airport about 2:30 p.m.

"We wanted to keep the drivers separated and avoid problems, but the transition went smoothly," said Larry Slagle, president of Yellow Cab of North Orange County, one of three companies providing replacement cabs.

Airport Director Alan L. Murphy said the transition was completed quickly, "with no disruption" to passengers.

American Livery, which operates as American Taxi, owed Ford Motor Credit Co. $3.3 million for its fleet of 140 natural-gas powered cabs. In bankruptcy court last month, Ford was granted authority to take possession of the cabs.

Ironically, American Cab was honored in April 2000 as a national leader in alternative fuels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

American's drivers, including many who did not know they would lose their cars, handed over the keys and watched as their cabs were put on large transport trucks and hauled away.

Ralph Still, 53, a driver with American when it won an exclusive contract at the airport, said he did not believe company President Rick Shorling when he told drivers the company would survive.

"I knew this was coming," Still said. "But a lot of the drivers really believed he was going to pull it off."

Neither Shorling nor his business partner, Lyle Overby, could be reached for comment.

Tuesday afternoon, when American's fuel supplier refused to provide any more gas, it virtually shut the company down.

Yellow Cab of North Orange County joined California Yellow Cab and Taxi Systems, also known as Fiesta Taxi in Cerritos, to form John Wayne Airport Yellow Cab Service, a joint venture that will provide taxis at the airport for the next six months. Meanwhile, Orange County officials will review options.

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