Taxis, Ubers, and public transit provide transportation for those who need a ride — whether that be because they don’t have a personal vehicle, or had a couple drinks and need a safe lift home.
With the closure of bars and restaurants amid COVID-19, the latter is a clientele lost for taxi companies in Lethbridge, Alberta.
“On a Friday night or a Saturday night there would be lots of parties,” said Dale Charles, a driver for A-Plus Taxi. He adds their typical goal as cab drivers is to complete 26 trips each day, but that number has been cut by more than half.
“Now we’re down to maybe ten trips,” Charles said. “It’s been tough to meet bills — we all have bills.”
Julie Edwards, owner and manager of A-Plus Taxi, said some of her contract drivers have decided to take a break from work due to concerns over contracting the virus.
“A lot of drivers are intimidated to drive, which I completely understand,” Edwards said. “Half of them have chosen not to drive right now during this because they’re fearful,” she said.
Despite losing staff, A-Plus Taxi has stayed open with reduced business hours to serve those who wouldn’t otherwise have a method of transportation.
In order to keep customers and drivers as safe as possible, Edwards has enforced new protocol, offering gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer to every customer.
Each vehicle is also wiped down thoroughly between rides, and signage outlining the regulations is posted in full view of each customer who enters the cab.
Charles says he hasn’t had any issues whatsoever with sick customers, and everyone he’s driven has adhered to the new rules.
“If they’re sick, I’ll stop them and say ‘You better just go back in the house,'” said Charles, adding he feels safe continuing to drive his two mini-van cabs, but he hopes customers continue to be honest.
With the weather also warming up, he said he believes people may be opting to walk or bike instead of taking a taxi. Charles says at this time of year business slows down anyways, without the added roadblocks of a health crisis.
“It’s nice out today, and it’s actually dead.”
The importance of using taxi services properly is something Edwards thinks is vital, so she’s not overly upset by the decline in business.
“When they’re [people are] using transportation, whether it be bus or taxi, to ensure that it is for essential needs and service,” she said. “Lethbridge is doing pretty darn good so far and I’d like to see it stay that way.”
Similar to the City of Lethbridge’s new ‘Ride by Reservation’ program, A-Plus Taxi is making reservations for trips that fall after their reduced business hours for essential workers needing a ride home.
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