Taxing times for taxicabs

Those wanting better service may not know what's involved in the business

Castlegar, in the opinion of some, is under-served by the taxi industry.

It is also the case that the city itself is not involved in setting or controlling the number of cars or operators at work within its boundaries.

People  making those decisions are those who would get into the business, and the regulators at the Ministry of Transportation.

The pros and cons of taxi service is a topic of lively conversation in many areas and, as in many other instances, those finding fault appear to make up the majority of those expressing any opinion on the matter.

Currently there are a couple of cabs working the Castlegar area, with the possibility of a third joining in at any given time.

Some residents feel waits are too long, and that the option is virtually non-existent in a city of this size.

Troy Pyett operates the Lions Head Pub and has done a fair amount of research into the issue. Pyett says he has yet to hear of a good reason why the number of cabs on the streets would be so low.

“It’s just common knowledge in this town that there’s no taxis,” he said early this week.

“People have just adjusted their mentality for it here,” he suggested, “Like, ‘ah there isn’t a taxi, that’s just the way it is.”

Pyett is not alone. Certain staff at City Hall have indicated a desire to see more taxis on the job in town.

Director of Development Serivces Phil Markin feels an increase would likely be welcomed.

“I think it would be a benefit to the city,” he said.

Pam McLeod of the local Chamber of Commerce said a discussion on the matter is coming up with her group.

“I can’t say much until our board meets in mid-September,” said McLeod, “but it’s definitely an issue that needs to be brought forward.

As much as some may rue the shortcomings of one or more particular operators, what seems apparent are the various challenges faced by the cab companies.

A number of sources were checked for information on this story and one was a cab company owner in Ladysmith, which has about the same population as Castlegar.

Clayton Balabanov is one of two such entrepreneurs in the Island city. He has a total of four cars serving the area from Crofton to the south, about 20k and Cedar, near Nanaimo, to the north. He says the other outfit has two cars and runs in-town only.

Balabanov says it is always a challenge to try and predict demand. More often than not, he described, there are either too many or too few cars on the streets to make economic sense.

Added to the mix in Ladysmith is free transit – a service he says is under-used.

The issue involves more than convenience, as Troy Pyett explained.

“It goes beyond just getting around when you’re drinking and driving,” he added.

“In general there should just be a better service in this community.”

Something else that’s obvious in all of this is that people don’t seem to be in a rush to get into the taxi business, not locally, at least.

The following information was obtained from the Motor Carrier Licencing branch in Victoria:

“Castlegar Taxi Transportation Services Ltd. has authority to operate three vehicles,” the agency outlined in an email.  “This company can pick up passengers in Castlegar + 25 km.

Champion Cabs & Communications Ltd. has authority to operate three vehicles.  This company can pick up passengers in Trail + 24 km.

PRC Cabs (Glacier Cabs) has authority to operate nine vehicles.  This company can pick up passengers in Nelson + 48 km.

“In the past four years, the Board has received one application from the Castlegar area (2009).

This was an application to operate one passenger directed vehicle.  It was dismissed summarily as the applicant failed to provide required information.

The Passenger Transportation Board makes decisions on taxi applications. The Passenger Transportation Act states that the board may approve an application if the board considers that:

(a) there is a public need for the service the applicant proposes to provide under any special authorization,

(b) the applicant is a fit and proper person to provide that service and is capable of providing that service, and,

(c) the application, if granted, would promote sound economic conditions in the passenger transportation business in British Columbia.

“The Board publishes applications each Wednesday.  People may make a submission on an application if (a) they submit it in the required time (usually 15 days) and (b) pay the $50 submission fee.”


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