Executive edge: Robert McBride

For Robert McBride, owner and operator of Metro Taxi, Denver’s largest taxi company, it all began with a 1973 Cadillac limousine with 350,000 miles on it and his parents’ driveway as his business address.

By day, he’d work in a fiberglass plant in his native New York; by night he’d  make runs to the airport, eventually getting into the wedding business, adding a second limo and buying a small taxi company that he’d grow into the largest operator on Long Island.

“There isn’t a department I haven’t worked in,” said McBride, 52, the son of poor Irish immigrants whose father worked two jobs his whole life. “I’ve done payroll; I’ve dispatched; I’ve driven a cab, been a mechanic, swept the floors and cleaned the toilets. I’ve done it all.”

McBride’s entrepreneurial spirit would lead him to Colorado where in 2004 he acquired Metro Taxi when Coach America divested its taxi operations.

“It was a boyhood dream to live in Colorado,” said McBride, who grew up an avid skier.  “I saw challenge and opportunity here and said I was going to make this the best company in the city.”

Today Metro Taxi employs 90 at corporate headquarters, including McBride’s two sons, Robert and Sean, who work in operations. Metro Taxi dispatches 500 cabs with nearly 700 independent contract drivers. McBride operates the largest clean fleet in the state and continues to add more hybrid and natural-gas cars each year.

“Every day is a different adventure,” said McBride, who recently completed his term as president of the international Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association. It was there that he honed his idea to design an app that allows passengers to skip the phone queue and track their taxi’s locale right from their phone or iPad.

“People in Denver are very tech savvy, so I kept my pulse on what was the best out there,” McBride said. “The drivers love it because the number of users is increasing every day and that means dollars in their pockets.”

As president of TLPA, he also started Taxis on Patrol, which today is in 20 cities, including Denver. The program puts taxi drivers on the lookout for crime and other situations. They call police when they spot suspicious activity.

“It’s an extra set of eyes and ears on the streets,” McBride said. “It’s as simple as seeing someone on a highway changing a tire that could be dangerous, or seeing a house on fire at 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s a deterrent in a drug community where people may be distributing drugs. A taxi is now an affiliate of the police

Within 24 hours of Taxis on Patrol’s launch in Denver last September, a Metro Taxi driver saw a pickup truck hit and kill valet driver Jose Medina outside the Rockstar Lounge. The taxi driver followed the pickup, got its license number and called police, who arrested the suspect.

“Many of our drivers feel more a part of the community because of this program,” said McBride, who said calls to police now number in the thousands. “A lot of them come from other places around the world and this makes them more intimately involved with the community and they can say, ‘I helped.’”

McBride, who lives in downtown Denver, frequently takes cabs.

“I always take a cab to see what the pulse is and hear what the drivers have to say,” McBride said. “It’s a good education to not only talk to my own drivers but to my competition’s drivers.”