Riders feel loss of town’s only taxi service

BRATTLEBORO — Those trying to hail a cab in Brattleboro should make other plans.

As of the end of June, Brattleboro Taxi has been closed. It was the only licensed taxi company in town, and there are no known plans to reopen it.

Patrons calling the company's phone to arrange for service have heard an outgoing voice mail message announcing its immediate closing “until further notice” for a “complete revamp.”

But no revamp is imminent, and the company's owner and manager were unavailable for comment.

The town's only taxi service served a variety of clients and needs, including travelers going to or from the Brattleboro Amtrak station and regional airports, and lower-income residents who couldn't afford to own a vehicle.

Brattleboro Taxi was also a contracted service provider for local hospitals and other medical and social service organizations to transport patients and clients.

Southeast Vermont Transit - the public transit company that operates The Current inter- and intra-city bus service in Windham and Windsor counties - used Brattleboro Taxi as a backup for their Dial-A-Ride program when demand overwhelmed supply.

Dial-A-Ride serves elderly and disabled residents, people with mobility issues who qualify for ADA para-transit services, and those with Medicaid who receive transportation benefits.

Southeast Vermont Transit Dispatch Supervisor Michelle Ovitt said Dial-A-Ride has increased its corps of volunteer drivers to make up for the loss of Brattleboro Taxi.

“It seems to be going pretty well,” Ovitt said. The 85 volunteer drivers bring clients “all over,” Ovitt said, including the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Wilmington, and Greenfield, Mass.

In addition to getting rides to medical appointments, Dial-A-Ride will bring approved ADA para-transit clients to hair appointments and on shopping excursions, as long as they are within 3/4 mile of a fixed bus route, Ovitt said.

Numerous town officials expressed surprise at the news of the taxi company's demise - and said there isn't much they can do.

Although Brattleboro Taxi served as a quasi-public-transportation entity, it was a privately owned company.

“It's important to find alternatives or come up with a solution to this problem, but it might not be the Selectboard's decision,” Selectboard member Tim Wessel said. “We're limited by how much we can support a private business.”

Chris Campany, executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, told The Commons, “We assist with regional transportation planning, including transit planning, but we don't operate any services or have a budget to do so. I'm thinking the solution lies with access to public transit.”

When asked if he knew why the taxi company closed, Town Manager Peter B. Elwell said he didn't, and “we're all asking ourselves that.”

Elwell noted “there was nothing that came up in the annual registration process” that indicated Brattleboro Taxi was in danger of closing.

“That was a surprise to us in town government,” he said.

The loss of Brattleboro Taxi leaves open “a business opportunity for someone to [operate a taxi service] and do it successfully,” Elwell said.

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