Need a lift?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 14:58

If you’re lucky enough to live in some parts of Anchorage, getting a ride somewhere isn’t that big of a deal. Taxi service is timely and efficient, and whether you live on Dimond or Debarr, it usually takes just a couple minutes to get a cabbie to pick you up at your doorstep and take you anywhere you need to go.

Out in the Valley, it’s much the same way. Whether you’re waiting outside the bar in the wee hours or in need of an early-morning ride to work, cabs can be counted on in a pinch.

In fact, in most towns across the state — in Fairbanks, Kenai, even Barrow — taxi service is a valued part of the transportation infrastructure.

But here in Chugiak-Eagle River that’s not the case. Bar owners say they drive their own patrons home because of a dearth of cabs in the area. Residents complain that getting a ride from Anchorage can take more than an hour.

Not having a taxi service is a public safety issue. Drunken bar patrons fed up with waiting might be more inclined to get behind the wheel while impaired. Having a cab outside the bar makes it that much easier for people to make the right decision.

A lack of cabs out here also hurts local business. The easier it is to get around our community, the more likely people will eat, shop and play here rather than traveling into the city.

An Anchorage woman has grabbed headlines recently by starting up her own free cab in Chugiak-Eagle River as a way of gathering data on the area’s need for a taxi service. She’s been cited by the municipality for operating as a taxi without a permit, though she argues that because she doesn’t charge, she doesn’t need one.

We’d rather not take sides on that one.

What’s far more important than the messenger in this case is the message: Chugiak-Eagle River has a clear need for a dedicated taxi service.

Because the majority of their fares come from Anchorage proper — Muldoon to Abbott — taxi drivers mostly hang out in the city. And because the municipality tightly controls the number of permits it issues, existing cab companies would rather not see new competition. So although there’s rarely any cabs out here, a new, upstart cab company — one that might be willing to only serve Chugiak-Eagle River — faces an uphill battle.

Cab companies have already argued that this area is served adequately, and that getting a ride out here isn’t as tough as everyone says. But if that’s true, try to remember the last time you saw a taxi cab cruising Business Boulevard or Birchwood Loop.

The Anchorage Transportation Commission says it needs more time to study the issue. Let’s hope the commission addresses this issue quickly. Chugiak-Eagle River residents should not be left waiting in the cold simply because we happen to be captive to a municipality whose regulations aren’t in line with our community’s needs.

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