Rate hikes allow Trail’s Champion Cabs to keep rolling

Trail’s only taxicab service Champion Cabs will remain open but with new increased rates.

Trail’s only taxicab service will remain open but with new increased rates.

After riding out the future of Champion Cabs this month while waiting for a response to a requested 35 per cent rate increase from the Passenger Transportation Board, owner John Foglia has been granted an accumulative hike to his service rates and has decided to keep his business in motion.

Customers can now expect to pay 10 per cent more ($3.45 instead of $3.15) for a start-up fee; 22 per cent more on travel time – $2.51 per kilometre rather than $2.06 – and three per cent more for wait time.

“I’m sure there is going to be some pros and cons to that but we’re going to do the best we can with what we got,” said Foglia.

If the transportation board didn’t side with his proposal, Foglia had planned to shut down his operation by the end of this month because rising minimum wage, high gas prices and growing insurance costs was driving him into debt to the tune of $22,000.

Without demand, he went from having six operational vehicles in Trail and Castlegar to three but only had one on the road between the two communities for this past month.

Not only was Foglia avoiding the cost of repairs and insurance with the future of his business up in the air but he also didn’t have the drivers.

“If it turns out we need more cars and it’s feasible to do so, I will put them on the road,” he said. “But at the same time, if I don’t have drivers then what’s the sense of parking more cars out in the parking lot – it’s sort of a Catch-22.”

He’s hopeful that he’ll now make enough profit to increase drivers’ pay, which will already go up this spring when minimum wage jumps to $10.25 from $9.50, and attract professional drivers with a Class 4 license.

Though he said his business is still for sale, Foglia is keen on providing service to the region.

“If this thing went down, it would be another nail in the coffin for our area, I really believe it,” he said.

“This isn’t a very good time for us and hopefully people realize for us small business, it doesn’t matter who it is, if we don’t support each other we’ve all lost.”

Trail council is pushing the province to develop a transportation strategy for rural communities that could improve the sustainability of operations like Champion Cabs.

The city will bring a resolution to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments held this spring; it was decided in council chambers last week.

“We’d like the province to consider the challenges that are faced in rural communities in terms of the provision of the service, whether the solutions that come forward be a different rate structure in rural communities that the taxi cabs may be subject to or perhaps a subsidization of taxi service forming part of an overall transit service,” explained city administrator Michelle McIsaac.

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.

To order a taxi or find our about job opportunities as a driver, Champion Cabs can be reached at 364-3344.