Commission thinks winter transport a good idea

But wants cabs, SAC to work it out
Thu, 12/27/2018 - 7:15pm
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The Motor Vehicles For Hire Commission heard ideas about new ways to utilize the taxi services in the winter for the town’s elder population and how best to schedule island-wide cab tours in the summer that will make the tours attractive to island visitors and the cab drivers themselves.

In the end, the members of the Commission thought both discussions, although worthwhile, were outside their purview. It was newly-appointed Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Cindy Lasser, who wanted to see if the tour schedules could be reorganized, and members of the Senior Advisory Committee, also in attendance at the meeting on Monday, Dec. 19, who wanted to see if there could be an arrangement made between the town’s elderly and taxis for wintertime transportation.

“We’re trying to create a senior transportation network trial in the winter, hopefully to start in January,” SAC Co-Chair Sandra Kelly told the Commissioners.

MVFH Chair Brad Marthens said that there were only a couple of taxis operating during the winter, and “this seems like something you can work out with the cab drivers. I don’t think it needs to come to the Commission.”

The issue is that fares that cabs must charge are dictated to them by the commission — the cabs are regulated — and those fees may be prohibitive if someone simply wants to go to the Medical Center or the Block Island Grocery. Because of that, Kelly and the other members of the SAC were hoping to perhaps subsidize the cost of the trips so the seniors could afford the transportation during the winter.

Given that, Marthens said “At this point I don’t think we need to put this on the agenda.”

As Kelly and Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich were walking out of the Town Council Chambers, where the meeting was held, cab owner Judy Clark said, “We’ll take care of you!”

Taxi Tours

The Block Island Chamber of Commerce is located in close proximity to the taxi stand in Old Harbor. One of the most popular questions the staff of the Chamber gets in the summer is how to schedule a tour of the island, which can take up to an hour. Because the cabs are so busy shuttling non-stop visitors from off the ferries, the tours are often difficult to schedule.

Lasser, as the incoming head of the Chamber, said that perhaps the two entities could come up with a set schedule for the tours. “We can take note of what those times are and we can tell people to go back to the cabs at that time,” said Lasser.

She realized that this might be easier said than done. “I realize that all of you might not want to do that, and all of you are not Chamber members,” she said.

Lasser said one idea might be to place a whiteboard outside the Welcome Center with the times of the tours and which cabs are giving them. One of the issues with that is that visitors often want to take a tour on their own schedule.

Judy Clark suggested that Lasser spend a day with one of the cabs to get a better sense of what their days are like “and then come back with your questions.”

“I think this is a great dialogue to have a meeting with the cab drivers,” said Marthens.

“We’ll work it out,” said Clark.

“Good start,” said MVFH Vice Chair Vin McAloon, who also owns one of the year-round cab services.

“Very good start,” said Marthens.