At least two taxi companies in Metro Vancouver are shutting down their operations temporarily due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunshine Cabs has indicated in a release that it will be suspending all operations beginning 9 pm on Saturday, March 28, until further notice. The company operates in the West Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Vancouver International Airport jurisdictions.
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“Our business has suffered considerable losses, as call volume for taxi trips has plummeted,” reads the release. “More importantly, due to the nature of our business wherein we are transporting members of the public in enclosed taxis, it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing of two metres, for the safety of both our valued customers and taxi operators.”
“Being a good and responsible corporate citizen of the North Shore business community means we must be agile in our response to this unfolding crisis, for the welfare of our customers, staff, and drivers.”
The temporary closure will result in the layoff of all dispatch staff, with an aim to assist them in accessing support through Employment Insurance and the pandemic financial assistance measures to be rolled out by the federal and provincial governments.
Kuber Taxi, which operates in Surrey, has also indicated in a bulletin that it has temporarily suspended its services until further notice.
According to the Passenger Transportation Board’s latest publicly available list of the provincial taxi fleets, Sunshine Cabs has 65 vehicles, including seven accessible taxis, while Kuber Taxi has 22 vehicles, including seven accessible taxis.
The crisis is certainly affecting Metro Vancouver’s largest taxi companies as well, with a video of social media showing Yellow Cab parking lot fully parked with company vehicles last Thursday night.
— Gurpreet S. Sahota (@GurpreetSSahota) March 20, 2020
With much of the population staying put at home and now only making essential trips, the entire local transportation sector has been affected by plummeting trip demand, including public transit, ride-hailing, and personal vehicle use, which is evident by sparse road traffic and the lack of any road congestion during traditional peak travel times.
Both major ride-hailing companies, Lyft and Uber, continue to operate and are asking both drivers and passengers to take precautions. Earlier this month, Lyft provided over 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to their drivers, and promised to provide compensation to drivers who are diagnosed with coronavirus or put under quarantine.
Data from TransLink indicates overall transit ridership across all services fell by 7% to 1.312 million boardings on Thursday, March 12; 17% to 1.213 million boardings on Friday, March 13; 23% to 726,000 boardings on Saturday, March 14; 29% to 552,000 boardings on Sunday, March 15; 38% to 843,000 boardings on Monday, March 16; and 52% on Tuesday, March 17.
The provincial government is expected to formally designate the transportation sector an essential service that is permitted to continue to operate.