Taxi service ‘woeful’ in Chugiak-Eagle River

Public, elected officials address Transportation Commission


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Chugiak-Eagle River is suffering from a lack of taxi service.

That’s what the Anchorage Transportation Commission determined after taking testimony from local residents and elected officials during a public hearing Monday, Oct. 15 in Eagle River.

“There’s no question in my mind that the area is woefully underserved,” Commission Chair Andrew Tierney said two hours into the meeting.

Most of the 40 or so in attendance agreed Eagle River is in short supply of taxis, as evident when the majority of the room raised a hand after Rep. Anna Fairclough asked who thinks there’s a need for a locally based cab company.

“The community really is telling you that we believe there is a necessity,” she said. “We need you to help us find a solution to that problem.”

Fairclough said she doesn’t want to “disenfranchise” current permit owners, but transportation is an issue in Chugiak-Eagle River, especially after losing two People Mover bus routes in 2010.

“We’re part of the Municipality,” she said. “We just want service.”

Permit owners argued that revenue is what keeps taxi drivers in Anchorage. Also, drivers are private contractors who lease the cab, they said, and can’t be forced to take specific fares.

Former Yellow Cab driver Megan Patrick agreed, saying it’s a losing venture for Anchorage-based drivers to take fares that originate and end in Eagle River.

“The money is all it is for the cab drivers,” she said. “It’s an untenable situation. It’s nobody’s fault.”

Most cab drivers stay in the South Anchorage area, Patrick said, because they can rely on frequent, lucrative fares to the airport.

The solution is having taxis independent of the Anchorage Bowl, Patrick said. Instead of auctioning more taxicab permits, the Municipality should create a business license — which it issues and can revoke — for an Eagle River-based cab company, she said.

Dean Paul, of Alaska Yellow Cab, suggested issuing temporary permits restricted to operating in Eagle River to see if the community can support a taxi service.

Patrick, who started offering free rides in Chugiak-Eagle River four months ago, said it can. Patrick said more than 465 people used her service over a three-month period.

“They deserve cabs,” she said. “They would use them. This area has been an [underserved] area for long enough.”

One Checker Cab driver blamed the customers for the problem.

He claimed 60 percent of his Eagle River clients are gone when he arrives for the pickup.

Several local residents argued that decades of neglect keep people from calling Yellow Cab or Checker Cab.

“People just don’t even bother calling because there’s no hope,” Chugiak Assemblywoman Debbie Ossiander said.

Cutbacks in transportation services and population growth aren’t helping the situation, said Susie Gorski, Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director.

“It’s been a real challenge to serve the outlying areas,” she said. “It has been a long-term issue.”

Fairclough suggested bringing people from all sides of this issue — dispatchers, cab drivers, elected officials, etc — together to solve the problem, which garnered support from at least one permit owner.

Monday’s hearing was just the beginning of a long process, Tierney said, but the Anchorage Transportation Commission is aware of the poor taxi service in Chugiak-Eagle River.

“I certainly recognize the problem,” he said. “A solution must exist.”

The public can give testimony about this issue at the Commission’s next meeting Monday, Nov. 26 in the Assembly chambers in Loussac Library.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727.

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