The owner of Trail’s only taxicab service plans on letting the meter run on the fate of his business for another week, before making a final call.
Champion Cabs owner John Foglia plans on closing his business by the end of February if the Passenger Transportation Board does not grant him a requested 35 per cent rate increase. But his patience has worn thin.
If his request for a rate increase doesn’t receive a green light in the next week, Foglia plans on shutting down his operation.
“I’m losing money but I want to feel good about knowing that I’ve done all I can,” he said. “I’ve done everything in my power, I believe, to give them enough notice to figure out what they want to do.”
Foglia said rising minimum wage, high gas prices and growing insurance costs has driven him into debt to the tune of $22,000.
To save money normally spent on inspection and insurance costs, Foglia is now only operating a total of three cars in Trail and Castlegar when he used to run six.
“It’s terrible because what’s going to happen now is business is going to get even worse for the simple reason that people will think, ‘Well he’s going to shut down anyway so there’s no sense of phoning a taxi.’”
Several calls to Greater Trail restaurant owners were not returned by press time Tuesday but Element Club Bar and Grill manager Florio Vassilakakis was available for comment.
He hasn’t noticed a difference in the level of cab service offered to his customers since additional vehicles were pulled from the road because he said the service already didn’t exist.
“The only time that people actually use his service is when something goes sideways – they were left here because their buddies took off or because they drank more than they expected and now they have to leave their car here and they hope that they can get a cab,” he said. “He’s holding these cities hostage and threatening to close his business down if he can’t raise his rates but having his rates raised does not increase our service, it just increases his rates.”
Foglia said the request to the board is simply a way to keep his business afloat and he isn’t looking to make money, more so just to break even. In fact, he has been trying to sell Champion Cabs for the past five years.
“It’s a tough business and what I mean by that is there is no government support,” he said. “You see transit going up and down our highways with nobody in it but they’ve been subsidized and yet with the taxis, you’re on your own.”
Folgia would like to see provincial and municipal governments working together with taxicab owners operating in rural B.C.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, with funding and administrative assistance from BC Transit, operates transit in Greater Trail. In 2011, the regional district put $995,000 toward this service, with Trail funding approximately $446,400 of this based on assessment.
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.