The meter is now running on Naramata’s first licensed taxi company.
Kurt Joudrey, the owner and operator, received approval at the end of August from the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board to operate the one-car service within the community.
In the first month of operation, Joudrey estimates he provided 50 rides in the seven-passenger van he bought specifically for the service, and is eager to plow through winter to get to the coming summer tourist season.
For now, the “one-man operation” runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Joudrey said one of the biggest obstacles he’s facing is convincing Naramata residents his service is affordable, since they’re used to paying higher costs for cabs travelling into the community from Penticton.
“Anywhere in Naramata’s not going to be more than $10,” he said.
Besides regular taxi service, he’s also permitted to operate flat-rate shuttles, including a run for cyclists to Chute Lake, a seniors’ day trip to Penticton and airport service.
The idea of The Naramata Taxi Co. came from Joudrey seeking a job that lets him work with his physical ailments, including arthritis in his lower back, and enrich the community he’s called home for a decade.
However, obtaining his taxi licence wasn’t easy and required help from Community Futures to prepare a full business case for the Passenger Transportation Board.
“I couldn’t have gone with anything less, it was so stringent. It was over 100 pages, my document, and that came back to me three times,” he said.
His application was also accompanied by 18 letters of support from the community.
“In general, (the letters) note concerns with the current lack of transportation options for those consuming alcohol at wineries or at local restaurants,” the board said in its decision.
“They also point out the need for taxi service for seniors and others in the area that do not drive and need transportation to attend medical services or shopping in Penticton.”
Among the letter writers was Karla Kozakevich, who represents Naramata on the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
“It’s nice to be able to call and book something and just go out and enjoy yourself and not have to worry about a vehicle,” she said in an interview.
If Joudrey “can make it through the winter — which I think he will with Christmas parties and people getting used to (the idea) there is a service to use — and he can make it to next year’s tourism season, I think he’s going to be successful.”