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One Vancouver Cab Company Providing Driver Training to Prepare for Olympic Crowds; Others Undetermined

Not all Vancouver cab companies have the same level of quality control in the leadup to the Olympics.

Last week's CTV story on the lack of knowledge on Olympic venue locations by cabbies was troubling.  In a city where personal vehicles will most likely (hopefully) be kept at home for the duration of the Games, taxis are going to be a vital resource for transporting people around the city.

There are four taxi companies in Vancouver – Yellow Cab, Black Top, McClure’s and Vancouver Taxi – and three of four were featured in yesterday’s investigation.

So, I decided to call the one that escaped a starring role on the broadcast to see how they are preparing to host the world.

 I contacted the Black Top offices and was first passed onto Amrik Mahil, the company’s President, to get some comments about the story and to ask what his company was doing to ensure that a repeat performance does not occur.

“It is another black mark for our industry” said Mahil.  “It is essential to provide drivers with training related to the Olympics – street closures, venue locations and the ability to answer basic questions about Vancouver.”

When asked what his company was doing towards that end, Mahil was emphatic.

“We as management have been talking to our entire roster of drivers for weeks” answered Mahil.  “I suggest you speak to Carolyn our GM, who has been conducting this training for many weeks.”

I followed up with Carolyn Bauer, General Manager of Black Top, who laid out how her drivers were being prepared.

“I have been personally conducing group training sessions for our drivers to ensure that they are informed of all the road closures and restrictions regarding their normal way of doing business” said Bauer.  “We are also making sure that they are aware of the venue locations, familiar with venue names, and overall able to serve as friendly and efficient guides for our out-of-town guests.”

Now, while this is the kind of thing that the three other companies might want to adopt in the coming weeks, there is a larger problem.  Namely, all taxis from surrounding municipalities are going to be able to pick up passengers within Vancouver’s city limits for the duration of the Games – a privilege that they are not usually accustomed to.

How the Passenger Transportation Board, which is responsible for this decision, is going to enforce a measure of quality control for all of these companies is a mystery, as it seems as though this is going to be a self-initiated type of endeavour.

Mahil added that his sense of pride for the city ensures that he and his company are going to do their best to act as exemplary representatives for Vancouver.

“We are on the front lines of dealing with the public for something as vital as transportation – so that makes each and every driver, regardless of his or her employer, an ambassador for Vancouver” said Mahil.  “All I can do is make sure that our 200 plus drivers are ready to give the best experience possible to each and every passenger visiting the city.”

There does seem to be a level of anxiety amongst drivers and a scary lack of knowledge of the most basic of facts regarding the Games, however.

First, with the Canada Line, road closures, more than 3,000 GM transport vehicles and increased competition with thousands of other taxis, cab drivers are by no means predicting a bonanza in terms of business.  In fact, of those drivers that I have spoken to, there seems to be an overarching impression that they will be lucky to maintain the fare intake they have been experiencing over the past six months – a situation that is already very slow.

Secondly, cabbies are clearly ill informed.  One driver from a company that shall remain nameless told me that he was not allowed to cross any of the major bridges during the games, and had to drop people off at public transit if they needed to get into the downtown core.

That of course is patently false.

So, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in a very short time frame.

Unfortunately, there is no magic solution, and as mentioned above, the conduct of each company will be the deciding factor of whether people that use cabs are happy or utterly frustrated by the time the Olympics roll out of town.


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