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Sylvan Lake company offering subsidized taxi service dissolves

Town revisits Subsidized Taxi Program

A taxi company that provided subsidized services for Sylvan Lake Family and Community Support Services has dissolved due to staffing shortages.

Aura Taxi discontinued operations in March.

As a result of changing bylaws to replace a flat rate taxi ride with a metred one, the 24-hour taxi service took about a 40-per-cent hit shortly after incorporating five years ago. With the onset of the pandemic and reliable drivers reluctant to work, the company was once again challenged by a 60-to-80 per cent loss in revenue.

“We love this town and we wanted to retire here. It was not an easy decision,” said owner Tom Cardwell.

The business operated under the name of A Plus Taxi for a brief period. After starting out with four cabs in 2016, the service shrunk to two by the time of closing.

Cardwell is looking for a potential business partner or will have to consider selling the business.

Through a taxi subsidy program offered by the Town of Sylvan Lake, transportation support is provided to seniors and adults with chronic physical and mental challenges.

Sylvan Lake’s Jennifer Peake had been using Aura Taxi services for about two years. Being hearing-imapired, she found it convenient to communicate with the company through text messages.

Peake, who also has mobility challenges, would typically use her $60 monthy voucher for trips to the grocery store.

“I liked them,” said Peake, adding she hopes the town comes up with alternative means of transportation for those in need.

On March 28, FCSS proposed town council make amendments to the current Subsidized Taxi Program. The current policy is being reviewed to determine options of support for clients that require help getting to medical appointments and wheelchair-accessibile transportation.

Administration made three suggestions to support clients requiring transportation subsidy.

Clients could be referred to third party organizations, avail a client designated drivers gas reimbursement to a maximum of $80 per month, and receive taxi cards for those requiring wheelchair transportation or those who don’t have a client designated driver to appoint.

A sliding scale for subsidy eligibility will be based on the client’s annual income, stated FCSS.

The Transportation Support Program will support clients with an annual income below $40,000.

A sliding scale allows flexibility to those under special circumstances, who may need to exceed their $80 per month allotment. It allows a fair system to support seniors and adults with physical and mental challenges.

FCSS had over 60 individuals registered for the subsidized taxi service.

Council request administration to edit the client designated driver portion of the policy to be applicable to wheelchair clients only and add the base subsidy amount for wheelchair accessible clients to $200 a month. All other users follow the suggested fee structure.

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