BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Dale Evans knows the taxi business. The well-known Honolulu businesswoman has been around the industry her whole life.
Her mother, Helen Morita, co-founded Charley’s Taxi & Tours with Dale’s father, Charles in 1938.
Evans watched as her mother, who started with four vehicles operating at a cabstand in downtown Honolulu, became successful in a “rough and tumble male dominated world of taxi operators.”
Evans learned every part of the business through hands on experience, and today, Charley’s Taxi has serviced 2.5 million customers and is the oldest and second largest taxi business in Honolulu.
When Helen died in 2008 at the age of 94, the Hawaii state Senate issued a resolution in her honoring that read:
“Helen Morita was a businesswoman who was not afraid to chart and follow a business course for Charley’s Taxi. She fiercely protected her growing company, sometimes drawing an adversarial sword, as when she took on government attempts to limit the number of taxi medallions, or when she sustained heated and confrontational attempts by organized labor to unionize her driver workforce … She worked hard to create the Charley’s brand, and understood that providing a good, consistent service for her customers, was a critical element of her success. Today, kamaaina and malihini alike know that when they call for Charley’s, they will get service, which is reliable, courteous, and prompt.”
The same resolution could just as easily apply to Evans.
Like her mother, Evans is a leader in her industry.
Most recently she implemented a new partnership with enters into partnership with the Canadian-based Mentor Engineering to advance the taxi company’s customer service and increase efficiency.
Ron Boulton, the National Sales Manager for IntelliFleet Taxi Division, flew to Hawaii with his company engineers to help with the launch of the new digital tracking system.
The system, which costs $850,000, allows the dispatch operation to track drivers’ whereabouts so they can more easily, efficiently and quickly dispatch drivers to their customers.
The drivers will save money on fuel and cut drive times by using the system, which provides information on the shortest route to the destination and traffic congestion along the way.
The system also will help Charley’s overcome a shortage of cars for the amount of business they are pulling in.
In addition to providing a higher level of service, Boulton said drivers also are more secure because the system tracks their whereabouts and they have an emergency warning system that they can utilize to flag suspicious passengers or call for help.
So far the system has been placed in 60 cabs and will be installed in all 200 Charley’s Taxis.
“The incorporation of Mentor’s technology will let Charley’s Taxi offer an unprecedented level of service to the City of Honolulu with a wide range of advancements over traditional dispatching systems,” Boulton said. “Charley’s Taxi, Hawaii’s oldest ground transportation company, will be partnering with Verizon to provide wireless connectivity in the vehicle, while Sprint will be their ISP provider in the office. This combination will provide Charley’s Taxi with 99% connection reliability, even in times of disasters or emergencies.”
Like many people in Hawaii who have worked with Evans, Boulton said she is an unusual client with hospitality that is legendary. Her drivers continue that tradition of hospitality priding themselves on sparkling automobiles, and quick and polite service.
The Honolulu City Council recognized Charley’s Taxi’s role in improving the standards of personnel in the visitor industry in 1997: “Charley’s Taxi and Tour is the first and only taxi company in the nation that has drivers who have completed and are certified in courses that enhance their skills in history, culture and language.”
Sam Slom, who heads up Smart Business Hawaii, has presented Evans with the highest business award in 2004. He said Evans is a real community asset.
“A successful business owner, transportation expert, legislative participant and dedicated leader, Dale has always been on the leading edge of technological advancement. She has energy and drive and is always optimistic and doesn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘quit.’ When Dale speaks, the business community listens and for good reason,” said Slom, who also serves in the Hawaii State Senate as the Minority Leader.
Transportation expert and retired businessman Cliff Slater said besides being a good businessperson, Dale is a remarkably civic-minded person. “When you discuss transportation policy with Dale the last thing on her mind is how it would affect her business, Charley’s Taxi. For example, she has always opposed putting limits on the number of taxis the city allows. It would allow those already in the business to clean up, but that wouldn’t be right, so she opposes it.”
University of Hawaii engineering professor said Dale Evans is one of the most mutli-faceted and deeply knowledgeable people he has met. “She can talk with authority about Congress legislation, city ordinances, the hospitality industry, the elderly and their needs, the local and national transportation industry, and advanced telecommunications services, and, of course, the taxi industry (with particular sensitivity to the Customer.) She is one of the most caring people about this island, this state and this country, Prevedouros said.
Evans and her company have won numerous awards and recognition in the community including the “voyage of teamwork and dedication in achieving quality and service excellence” presented by the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Hawaii Hotel Association’s na Po’e Pa´ahana Award in recognition of outstanding efforts in performing its job and for supporting the community, recognition in Honolulu Magazine’s “How to Live Better and Cheaper in Honolulu” edition; and acknowledgement by the Chamber of Commerce Hawai´i for Evans’ “personal commitment to serving the land transportation needs of Oahu’s people and increasing public awareness of vital transportation issues.”
Dale’s daughter Darci also has worked in the business with her mother. The three generations of women have used their knowledge, hospitality and innovation to successfully compete in one of Hawaii’s toughest and most competitive industries.