Just as the holiday party season looms, a familiar fleet of designated drivers is returning to the North Shore.
Sunshine Cabs, which shut down operations in March 2020 due to the pandemic, will relaunch local cab service, starting Dec. 1.
“We are extremely glad that we’re in a position to be back and to serve our customers on the North Shore,” said Gurdip Sahota, general manager for the resurrected company. “We are committed to making this happen.”
Sahota said the taxi service is aiming to have 10 to 15 drivers on the road to start. Eventually, they plan to have up to 74 vehicles and drivers. That will take some time and patience though, Sahota said.
All but a handful of the original vehicles were sold off over the last two and a half years, and the drivers got new jobs. And much like every other business right now, it’s been a struggle finding both staff and equipment, or in this case, cars.
To woo drivers, Sahota said the owner is offering potential owner/operators a “sweetheart deal” on fees and he won’t require new recruits to have their vehicles painted in the iconic Sunshine Cabs yellow.
Demand for cab rides has risen to about 80 to 85 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels, Sahota said, and the taxi industry has won back some of the market share lost to riding-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.
“People who had stopped calling taxis are now calling cabs again, because they’ve actually now found out that it is not the panacea that was being sold by its advocates,” he said, adding that fare rates are set by the Passenger Transportation Board so they don’t spike when demand is high, which is what the ride-hailing industry’s business model is built on.
Sunshine Cabs first launched on the North Shore in 1981. At one time, they were notable for having their entire fleet comprised of Cadillacs, with drivers who wore uniforms.
“Our passengers on the North Shore would wait up to 45 minutes because they wanted to go back to the North Shore from the airport in a Cadillac cab,” he said with a laugh. “A Yellow Cab would roll up at the airport, and they’d say ‘Nope, my cab is going to North Vancouver. You guys are going to get lost over there.”
Thanks in part to its storied history and the holidays approaching, Sahota said his drivers will quickly find themselves busy as the sun rises on Sunshine Cabs.
“We expect that when we finally start operations in on the North Shore, that the community will respond and our customers will start calling the dispatch line again,” he said. “They’ll welcome additional taxi service and who wouldn’t?”
Sunshine Cabs is having a launch event at the West Vancouver Cricket Club on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The dispatch line will remain 604-988-8888.