Powell River Taxi now has a wheelchair taxi service for those requiring that form of transportation.
Manager and co-owner of Powell River Taxi Rob Maithus said the company has had the taxi for nearly a year but the difficulty was finding a driver who was willing to keep the vehicle and be on call. A driver is in place and the service is now available.
Maithus said to start, while the business is being built, the preference would be for people wishing to make a booking to call 24 hours in advance to make sure the driver is available, but same-day bookings are doable if the driver can accommodate the request.
The taxi service has flexibility but Maithus said the preference would be to operate during hours the handyDART bus service operates and maybe into the early evening. However, if the driver is available, the service will be available as long as the driver wishes to go.
The wheelchair van is equipped for a single wheelchair and three passengers. The taxi will operate throughout the whole Powell River region, but the company is also promoting out-of-town fares. Maithus said Powell River Taxi will be transporting a wheelchair fare down to Sechelt and back in the same day.
“Those are booked way in advance to make sure the driver and van are available,” said Maithus. “Those are worked on a flat rate; we just figure it out, rather than having the taxi meter run for hours.
“If someone needs to go to St. Paul’s Hospital for the day, or to Vancouver Island for the day, this would be perfect for that. If they can have this option, it’s way cheaper for them in the long run, rather than having to go out and buy a van.”
Maithus said the company is also going to try and pick up the slack with handyDART. He said if someone phones to get on handyDART and there is no room on the bus, the van can be sent. It’s called the taxi supplement and all the riders do is pay what they would pay to get on handyDART, which is sanctioned through BC Transit, according to Maithus.
“You have to be one of our registered handyDART clients,” said Maithus. “If you phone on the handyDART line trying to get handyDART, and you’re one of our clients, we can offer you the van if it is available. If you phone the taxi line, however, you are getting a taxi and you pay the cab fare.”
At recent meetings of City of Powell River Council, the need for improved transportation service for people with mobility issues has come forward, with several presentations from the public having been made. Having the taxi service will provide improvement for those needing specialized transportation.
“Hopefully, we can keep on getting busier with it,” said Maithus.
David Formosa, co-owner of Powell River Taxi, said for a number of years, the company wanted to reintroduce a wheelchair taxi, and as the majority shareholder for the business, it is something he wanted to do for the community.
“Eventually, we came up with a situation that worked,” said Formosa. “We started the process of applying for a taxi licence and we got granted our licence. We then purchased an equipped van with the wheelchair component.”
Formosa said the remaining component was finding a driver, which the taxi company has done.
“It’s basically available on her terms and her time,” said Formosa. “Also, she’s available for overload on the taxis, so if they are backed up, she can be dispatched for regular runs.
“We’re pretty pumped that it’s finally available and I hope the wheelchair public uses the service so we can keep it.”
The service is available by calling 604.483.3666.