Taxi company fighting for additional passes 

The owners of Whistler Taxi are baffled by the municipality's decision to award the company just five passes into each of the five restricted zones around Whistler, given their fleet of 39 vehicles.

Moreover, they say that all companies were awarded up to five passes, regardless of the number of vehicles on the road.

Among other things, it means that the taxi service can't readily take customers to staff housing or Creekside, which are among their most popular routes.

"We were totally surprised," said Ian King, an owner and operator with Whistler Taxi who said they only found out about the pass limitations two weeks ago. "It appears the municipality hired a transportation consultant and they decided that this was going to happen without consulting anyone on the inside. There are only two of us (taxi companies) in town and they didn't talk to either of us."

King says he's not out to complain or assign blame, but believes the Olympic plan should be flexible enough to be adjusted when a situation is not working.

There are currently 39 vehicles with the company, which is ensuring that the passes are concentrated in as few hands as possible so they don't end up in a situation where one car has the pass to Taluswood and another to staff housing.

As a result he says a customer has a little better than a 10 per cent chance of getting to their destination if it's within a restricted area.

The company did go to VANOC for assistance, but were told that the responsibility for maintaining secure zones around public roads rested with the municipality.

Dan Richardson, another owner-operator with the company, went to municipal hall to request more passes and was denied.

The result, Richardson says, is less work for drivers and less service to customers. It may not be apparent now, he adds, but it will be obvious next week when the resort is at capacity and the buses begin to fill up.

"Our drivers are having a tough time already with the buses on the road," he said. "These are people who work year-round, they have houses, they have investments here, they are invested in this company, they have families, they have kids, and this is the slowest we've ever seen it in history.

"We've picked this company out of bankruptcy, we've survived all the tough times, but this is painful."

Richardson also takes exception to all of the vehicles that are being used to transport people around town, given the lack of oversight.

"Our drivers are scrutinized," he said. "They have to have criminal record checks, safety checks, additional licences. We have the experience on the road, we have inspected vehicles, the snow tires, the ski racks. Some of the vehicles they're using don't even have snow tires, and some of the drivers have probably never been on snow."

Richardson understands that the Olympics could increase business in the long run, but he said that doesn't help the people who have bills to pay now.

"We know how business cycles go and we knew we were going to have a bit of a dead spot... and I assume we're probably going to be making more income after the next 40 days. But that's a long time to go without a paycheque, and for the people who have to work to pay rent, to pay bills, it doesn't save them."

King joined four other drivers at municipal hall last week to apply for passes. As an owner-operator he says he could technically be called a separate company and should be able to apply for his own passes.

"Whistler Taxi owns about 10 of the vehicles, and the other 29 are owner-operator," he said. "Technically Whistler Taxi was given those passes, but I figure since we're our own businesses we should apply for our own licenses."

That was on Tuesday, and the drivers were told to come back the next day. At press time, however, King has still not received an answer.

Pique contacted the RMOW to find out if more passes could be awarded, but did not receive a reply prior to press time.



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