Unless you’re rich, no one likes paying for a taxi.
I get it: they’re expensive, often have questionable smells associated with them (to be fair, I have taken my fair share of 3 a.m. Toronto rideshares — not exactly the golden hour for taxis) and it always seems like the only time there is a wait for one is exactly when you need it.
Despite the above, I am a firm believer that they are essential for any community without a robust, 24-hour transportation system.
So when I heard that BV Taxi would be closing its doors at the end of this month after some 15 years in service, my initial reaction was concern.
For all of the essential services Smithers has — an airport, art gallery, library, maintained ice rinks, gymnastics club and many more — it’s shocking to me that ride hailing could be the first to go.
To use the cliché simile, a taxi is a little bit like a legal firearm: it’s better to have access to one and not need it than realize you need it but can’t get one.
Likewise, even though most of us aren’t wealthy enough to take taxis daily, virtually all of us have been in a position where our safety was consolidated by their presence.
The obvious example is the night out at the bar. The plan to get together with a few friends and have one drink turns into two, which turns into three, which turns into sloppily dancing to Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” at The Twin.
Suddenly last call is announced and you look at your watch. It’s 1:48 a.m. and you’re 15 kilometres from home without a place to stay.
You dial the same number you’ve been dialing for years, but instead of the familiar voice of dispatch on the other end you’re met with an automated message telling you the taxi service is no more.
What do you do?
Some will sleep in their car. Others will take the loss and choose to be (literally) homeless for a night.
I fear, however, that the majority will look for other ways to get home.
Whether that’s driving themselves and/or others or accepting a ride from another person (who may or may not be impaired), it will almost certainly have the same end result: more drunk drivers on the road.
While this is just a hypothesis, it is certainly supported by the current statistics we have on ride-hailing companies’ affect on alcohol-related car incidents.
A 2017 study found in four boroughs of New York City there has been a 25 to 35 per cent reduction in alcohol-related car accidents since Uber came to town in 2011 when compared to other places where the ride-hailing company doesn’t operate.
So while the end of taxis for Smithers might be a win for the RCMP’s quota and year-end roadblock stats, it will certainly be a loss for the fight against drunk driving.
There is also the issue of safety.
While I’ve never been in a position where I felt at risk in a nightlife setting and wanted to get somewhere safe, many of my friends have.
As we lose our access to this essential service, how many will be put into perilous situations because their options are accepting a sketchy ride or wandering around aimlessly until their blood-alcohol content is low enough to operate a vehicle?
This is especially relevant when you take into account the alleged assault that took place downtown earlier this month and doing all we can as a community to ensure safe rides are readily available.
This is not BV Taxi’s fault, but the fact remains if we do not have a taxi service in the area these are the inevitable problems we will face.
It’s not all bad though. Between me and you, I remain confident in the free market.
Already one local entrepreneur who runs a shuttle company in the area has expressed interest in stepping in to fill the void.
There’s also the Bulkley Valley Band Boosters, who offer impaired people safe rides from events all over the area.
Last but not least is all of you I’ve seen on social media offering safe rides within the community over particularly big party weekends — New Year’s, Christmas, May 24 long weekend, etc.
Official taxi service or no official taxi service, between all of the above I have faith that someone will step up.
After all, it’s only fare.