August 24, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story

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A Fare to Remember 

Stories from Richmond's front-seat ambassadors.

"I drive my car 80,000 to 90,000 miles a year," says Ali Omari, owner of Royal Cab. "When I started my business six years ago, the insurance per cab was $1,600 a year for liability. Now it's $4,400 a year. And the rates are the same."

Easy money it isn't, considering that most cabbies work 12-hour days, seven days a week. With insurance rates rising, regulations tightening, crude oil skyrocketing and competition increasing, making money at the cabstand is getting harder and harder.

Still, they drive. And they listen to us. And many readily admit they couldn't conceive of doing anything else. Despite the uncertainty — at any given moment, a cabbie can get cursed out, beaten, robbed or simply left holding a meter bill — the lure of the road is undeniable. It's freedom, capitalism in its purest form. For the cost of a car and about $400 per meter, just about anyone with a decent driving record can become his own boss, set his own hours and pursue the American dream.

Most won't get rich, and few will retire comfortably. To those who listen, however, they may have a great story to tell. — Scott Bass



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