Man plans rural taxi service for Beaver Valley

Not enough fares to go around, says owner of existing cab company

A 23-year-old Fruitvale resident sees the need for a taxi service within the rural area of the Beaver Valley and is now working on opening his first business.

Residing near Champion Lakes, Scott Cohen knows what it’s like to live off the service map, where transportation can be scant – though he does have a vehicle and is not struggling with a physical disability.

There is no bus service in the middle of the night and even in the daytime it is a long uphill walk from the bus stop in Fruitvale for seniors living at Mountain Side Village, explained Cohen, who will apply for a business license once he receives word back from the B.C. Transportation Board.

“I’ve always been interested in helping out the community I’ve grown up in,” he said.

Cohen plans to run a one-car cab service that would cater to those living outside Fruitvale in Area A beyond the public bus route.

He would like to charge the same rates as Champion Cabs, $1.88 per kilometre, to ensure his business is compatible to the neighbouring taxi service. He will stick to servicing rural areas in the Beaver Valley, ensuring his business doesn’t interfere with Champion.

“The response has been great. There are a lot of people who want this service,” he said of the over 200 signatures he recently collected from Beaver Valley residents.

For those living in rural areas without a driver’s license, transportation options are limited, especially if they are elderly or have limited mobility.

If a walk to the nearest bus station is out of the question, residents could call a cab from Trail but he suggested from a business perspective, the 25-kilometre drive to Fruitvale to take a passenger a short distance often seems pointless. As a result, some locals end up rescheduling their errands until a loved one is available to drive them from A to B, which means even a trip to the doctor’s office may be put off until it’s convenient.

The desire to start up a local cab service was pushed further when Cohen noticed that a lot of people were having a hard time getting home

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after a night out at a local pub, following the 0.05 blood-alcohol limits put in place last year.

With the additional hit of the HST and a lack of service improvements like more taxis or late-running buses, many choose to stay home, he indicated.

“If anything, more people will be able to get around and go to the store more often.”

After setting up petitions at local business, Cohen connected with Area A and Fruitvale in hopes of securing support.

Cohen plans to have his service up and running this year.

John Foglia, the owner of Champion Cabs, wishes Cohen luck with a service he’s grappled with since purchasing the Trail and Castlegar cab company seven years ago.

“I’m not trying to paint a gloomy picture here but if we didn’t service both Trail and Castlegar, plus operate a dispatch as a unit, there’s no way it would work,” he said, pointing to the limited revenue to be made by servicing Fruitvale and Area A, which he gets about three calls a week from.

“You don’t make a dollar on one job, you make a nickel here and a nickel there and hope you can get by.”

Foglia feels not enough residents take cabs or ride the bus as it is.

Within a 12-hour shift, he says there’s an increase in demand for about an hour and then business returns to about one call every half hour. His busiest time is during “welfare Wednesday,” when the cab company responds to about 30 calls.

“If you want a cab, you want it right now – you don’t want to wait for it.”

Champion Cabs was given a license to run about double the six cars it operates in total, but without the clientele not all the specialty license plates were needed.

An awful lot of money is required to upkeep the vehicles to a certain standard, which is somewhat easier for Foglia, who also owns J F Auto in Trail.

Now he’s worried about the increase in minimum wage forcing him to shell out more for the 15 cab company employees some who currently get paid $9 an hour.

He wants out of the business and has Champion Cabs up for sale.