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Taxi industry seeing decline in riders amid coronavirus

Drivers who typically cater to cruise ships in the warmer months have also started to see cancellations coming in
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(stock photo)

The Halifax taxi industry is already seeing a decrease in its ridership as COVID 19 cases increase across Canada.

Although no cases have been confirmed in Halifax, Dave Buffett, head of the Halifax Taxi Association, says it's impacting drivers.

"There's an absolute certainty that it's already felt, not thought. We're realizing a drop in business," he tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

Buffett says drivers who regularly cover the Halifax Stanfield International Airport have seen a lull in rides both to and from the airport.

"There are fewer runs to the airport, a lot fewer. There's a lot fewer runs from the airport to town," he explains. "And that has a domino effect in the sense that airport drivers, if they're not doing well enough at the airport, they'll move into town."

Drivers who typically cater to cruise ships in the warmer months have also started to see cancellations coming in.

"There's quite a number of drivers who book cruise ship tours often twice a day, so the morning arrival and the afternoon arrival for six months, and they're experiencing unprecedented cancellations," Buffett says.

This past week, the Halifax Port Authority announced that no cruise ships with over 500 passengers would be allowed to dock in Halifax until at least July 1.

"The effect that has, if you've got typically two to three hundred drivers on the Port queue every day seven days a week," adds Buffett. "They move back into town and so it really affects them directly and then it affects every other driver in the sense that the pie is cut in more slices."

But he thinks most drivers will work through the decrease in ridership and the industry will bounce back once the virus passes.

"I think we sort of have to weather the storm. It's almost like when gas prices went up to $1.40 a liter about five or six years ago. We really had to tighten our belts, we had less disposable income," he explains.

But the Taxi Association says there's no reason why Haligonians should feel unsafe getting into a taxi at this point in time, and that more strict cleaning measures have already been put in place.

"Drivers, because we are in such close proximity to the public daily and nightly and weekly, we take measures. Wipes and spraying Lysol at the end of the day and so on," Buffett says.

Buffett also says that drivers have been instructed not to discriminate based on who they think might be carrying the virus.

"We're forbidden, of course, from saying this person, because of their ethnicity or their country of origin they're potentially carrying it," he says. "That's just not acceptable."

Although if drivers suspect someone of being ill due to presenting a cough or other symptoms of COVID 19, Buffett says they have the ability to refuse a ride.

"We haven't really got into it to that degree yet," he explains. "That would be a situation where a driver, if a driver says clearly this person exhibits signs, then he could suggest look, you're going to have to call EHS, Emergency Health Services for your transport."

As the virus progresses over the days and weeks to come, Buffett says taxi operators will be monitoring the news closely and making the appropriate changes to their routine.

"It's extremely difficult and they're watching it on a daily basis," Buffett says. "One cab company is talking about shutting their front office so there's very little, no physical interaction between drivers and staff to keep the staff safe."

Buffett says any drivers who are sick will be pulled off the roads, and that drivers are sharing tips on how to stay safe and sanitary.

"We do compete against each other. But at the end of the day...we defend each other as well," he says. "We're looking out for each other's back, we're working together."




Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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