The Town of Hay River says it’s working with local cab companies after residents raised concerns about a lack of taxis on the road with colder weather coming.
Hay River’s taxi bylaw states each company must have at least two taxis and a dispatcher available at all times. Town officials say it appears some companies may be missing the mark.
“This isn’t a new issue,” said town senior administrator Glenn Smith.
“The risk – or concern that we have – is the ability for people to get home safely in the winter. Walking can increase the risks for safety.”
At a Hay River town council meeting on November 9, Councillor Brian Willows queried why there were so many references to taxis among council documents.
In October 2020, the town received 13 inquiries regarding taxi availability. Four resulted in warnings for operators.
The breakdown per company was not available. The local cab companies could not be reached by Cabin Radio for this article.
“The nature of the complaints seems to be that the taxi cabs are not available as expected by patrons,” Smith said.
Barriers in Hay River
Smith says cab companies in Hay River do face obstacles.
The elongated geography of the town, stretched along the highway, is one. The drive to the neighbouring Kàtł’odeeche First Nation is another.
Long trips could explain delays in service to some degree, Smith said, as each trip takes one cab out of commission for its duration.
“It’s an extremely challenging environment in Hay River,” he said.
Covid-19, too, has lowered demand and restricted operators. For example, social distancing protocols may affect the capacity of each cab.
Recruiting employees has become a hassle, Smith said, as people do not want to put themselves at risk by driving multiple groups each day during the pandemic.
Smith said town staff have met with one operator but have yet to sit down with the other. The town hopes to hear suggestions on service improvement from both companies this month.
“The strategy is to meet with them and discuss what is working: how can we work together to on this to meet the expectations of the public and our bylaws, and do the bylaws need to be changed?” Smith said.
In the meantime, Smith said, the town is seeing more calls to its volunteer fire department for help getting people to medical centres. The town thinks that could be related to the lack of taxis.
With the holiday season – and in all likelihood, many gatherings involving alcohol – on the way, Smith wants residents to have access to safe transportation.
“Risk of exposure increases with cold temperatures,” he said.
Smith reminded residents to plan ahead when going out to ensure they have a safe ride home – which could involve pre-ordering a cab.
“Especially if they are going to have alcoholic beverages, they really need to be considering how they will get home safely,” he said.