The last taxicab in Trail could be pulled off the road this month and 14 jobs are on the line as Champion Cabs prepares to close its doors by the end of January.
Citing rising costs and a provincially-mandated charge rate that is not keeping pace, the city’s only taxi cab company is losing money and will be closed if the province does not allow a higher rate, said the company’s owner, John Foglia.
He has emailed and faxed the Passenger Transportation Board in Victoria for a rate increase to allow Champion to keep cabs on the road, setting a deadline of Jan. 31 for a reply.
“I’ve tried to provide a service for our area, but it is no longer feasible for us to do so,” he said. “We tried what we could … but we are losing money at the current rate.”
Taxicabs are regulated by the province and are only allowed to charge as much as the government dictates.
The last rate increase Champion was allowed was two years ago when the province approved a 2.3 per cent increase to the non-base charge (base charge being $3.15) on the meter. The meter goes up by increments of 15 cents, based on time and mileage.
Foglia said with the rate the government requires them to charge, other associated costs — rising minimum wage, high gas prices, mushrooming insurance costs — have compounded to put him in the red to the tune of $22,000 over the last three months.
Trail Taxi began in the mid 1960s but when Foglia took over the company in 2000, he changed the name to Champion Cabs and later combined the service with Castlegar Taxi, which he bought six years ago.
He felt the two companies — and an answering service he established in conjunction with the taxi services — would support each other enough to survive as the lone cab company in their respective cities.
When he started he operated five cab licences in Trail and six in Castlegar. Now he has only three in each city, with one driver on for each night and day shift.
He said the call volumes weren’t enough to sustain the business, or more cabs. The calls would come in waves, six or seven per hour, and then nothing for several hours.
“People would complain ‘I can’t get a taxi in this town.’ Well, the reason is there wasn’t enough to keep two drivers on,” he said.
Even with more business, however, the high costs to operate would have kept the operation losing money, Foglia explained. The rate needed to rise.
Despite his dramatic decree to fold up shop and put nearly one dozen people out of work in Trail, Foglia was not optimistic he would garner a rate raise out of the province.
“I have a better chance of winning the lottery than I do in the government telling me I can raise the rate,” he said.
But finances are requiring the move to close. Foglia felt some remorse for the people who truly needed the service because they couldn’t afford anything else. He thanked the many patrons of the company — as well as many of his staff members — for their business and friendship throughout the years he operated the company.