A temporary shutdown of taxis in Smithers may have inadvertently rescued the service.
Over the long weekend last month, on the Saturday evening of Feb. 16, BV Taxi owner Joyce Pottinger had to close up shop for lack of drivers.
“It’s something I’ve been fighting with for the last four years,” she said. “I’ve had it advertised and word-of-mouth, and no resumes are being handed in, and just working with a skeleton crew.”
News of the shutdown precipitated a public response that appears to have turned things around.
“After I opened up on Monday afternoon again, I had four resumes and an interview for a driver and two different parties interested in buying the company and I said, ‘well, why the hell didn’t I shut down five years ago.’ It shook Smithers up something terrible. Now I’ve got too many drivers and not enough work,” said Pottinger.
She did not rule out selling, saying she is currently negotiating with the prospective new owners.
While BV Taxi appears to be in a much better position, getting people to and from the airport is an ongoing issue.
“I’ve got two cabs sitting at the airport now every time Air Canada even thinks about coming in,” Pottinger said.
But that’s only part of the solution, said Heather Gallagher, manager of the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce.
“[BV Taxi] provides good service, but if 20 people arrive at the airport and need transportation downtown, it’s not enough,” she said.
The Chamber recently facilitated a meeting with Tourism Smithers and local accommodations and tourism operators to address the need.
“It was a really good discussion,” Gallagher said. “We had hoped that the accommodations sector and the guides and outfitters would sort of chip in for a paid shuttle service from the airport, but it’s too costly.”
Instead, Hayley Wilson of Adventure Camp Tourism stepped up with a possible alternative.
“The Town of Smithers recently approached me to do a regularly scheduled shuttle, so we sent out a survey to several accommodations providers and outfitters and the information I got back indicated that it’s not a viable project,” Wilson said.
Adventure Camp currently operates three buses to take its own groups on various types of excursions around the region. Wilson also currently contracts with some other companies to shuttle their guests, but agreed to expand that service.
“I put it out to other accommodations providers and outfitters that they can book me to get their guests to and from the airport, and I’m happy to do that,” she said.
Booking the service requires about a day advance notice and the cost is $15 per passenger.