Taxi, shuttle, bus
Have you ever missed the last ferry and had to leave your car in Horseshoe Bay to get home on the water taxi? Have you had an injury that’s prevented you from driving the kids to school? Or have you been out for a night and wished you had an alternative way for getting home? There are many scenarios when a taxi service would be welcome and necessary and George Zawadzki, Alan Mills and Glenn Cormier have looked into ways of making such a service a viable option on Bowen Island.
“We’ve researched what it’s going to take to get a cab here but it’s difficult to make it as a private venture,” Zawadzki said, explaining that he has looked at the numbers and, while they are promising, they are not “make-profit numbers.”
“They are break-even numbers,” he said. “So, if it’s to be sustainable, not like the initiatives that have come and gone, we need government support.”
Glenn Cormier is the co-owner of the Bowen Island Pub. He says that the big hurdle for a taxi service is the provincial licensing that caused the previous attempt to fail. It also narrows down options for use. “Normally with a taxi, it requires provincial licensing but when we started doing our research into a taxi service, we found that provincial licensing can be bypassed if the service is run through the municipality,” he said.
Cormier explained that if the municipality determines that there is a need for transportation services, it can define the service and license it locally, without going through the province. “We decided that this would be a much better option for meeting Bowen’s needs because with provincial licensing, you get stuck in a pigeonhole,” Cormier said. “[The province regulates] how to operate, what to charge, what you can and cannot do and the size of the vehicle. There are also a lot of restrictions on a bus service and a shuttle service. When it comes to Bowen, we need all those things and you can’t fit all those services under one provincial license.”
Zawadzki also believes that a local service should address more than one need. “We are not looking for a regular taxi,” he said. “We are aiming for a service that offers safe rides home from pubs and restaurant, meets the late night ferries and water taxis and shuttles people to the golf club or other island attractions. It would be a demand-responsive taxi that could also could provide on-island tours for visitors.”
The benefits of such a service would be obvious right away, says Mills, especially to businesses. And he could envision broadening the service to take seniors or kids into Vancouver, once the on-island demand is met. “We would go as far as calling it an essential service,” he said, adding that the transportation section in the OCP reinforces that notion.
And the Local Government Act states that a municipality or regional government can deliver any services it deems desirable or necessary, according to Zawadzki. “All legislation is in place for council to get into the taxi business,” he said.
Cormier said that even though the municipality would be involved in setting the service up, it wouldn’t be funded by taxpayers. “The municipality would define their needs independently and then license the service back to a private operator,” he said, adding that the process of achieving this is not clearly mapped out. “It’s uncharted territory,” he said. “We need to start a dialogue with the municipality and we need to get the public’s support and understanding what we are trying to do.” Cormier said that he is interested in finding a solution tailored to Bowen’s conditions and invites islanders to speak up about their needs. “If we can provide all the services and have multiple revenue streams, this can actually be a viable business,” he said. “All we need [from the municipality] is the support for licensing and defining the needs independently.”
Zawadzki added that the municipality’s involvement could also translate into the ability to lease a vehicle and have access to inexpensive insurance and cheaper fuel. It would also open the doors for potential funding partners and grant opportunities. “This will in no way infringe on the bus service,” he said. “We’re just trying to fill the gaps.”
Mills added that they are looking for a multi-model form of transportation with the potential to get people out of cars. Alternative fuels and fuel efficiency will also be considerations. “The initiative fits the objective of the OCP in the environmental and economical sense, especially if the municipality is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020,” he said
Zawadzki said that even though there are no examples where a municipality runs a service exactly like the one he envisions, there are places where local governments have identified shortfalls in transportation. And they are looking at innovative means to address them. As examples, Zawadzki lists car-sharing, van-pooling, taxi buses and voucher systems where fares are subsidized for people with special needs. “There is a myriad of services geared to unique needs,” he said, adding that he is hoping to achieve the same for Bowen.
Zawadzki, Cormier and Mills have tentatively marked the March 25 council meeting on their calendars. They plan to send a delegation to council to present the idea on behalf of the Bowen Island Chamber of Commerce. They invite islanders to express their support in the form of letters to council that can be sent directly to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org.