Demand for Fairbanks taxis hit by COVID-19 pandemic

School closures have affected taxi services, which would regularly bring children to school. (Alex Bengel/KTVF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Fairbanks taxis have been hit by decreased demand for services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fairbanks Taxi Services (FTS), which operates as Alaska Cab, King Cab and Arctic taxi, has seen a drop in daily rides that started in the middle of March.

Eric Olson, the owner of FTS, said, “Because of the restaurant and bar closings, night business has almost completely dried up. Daytime business was about half of what we were doing prior to the outbreak.”

Brock Bean, a driver contracted with Fairbanks Taxi Services, said that he’s seen a 25-40 percent drop in his passenger volume, and with that comes a loss of income.

Bean said, “We have a contract with the School District, so there are children that we were transporting typically and we lost the last couple months of that.” He also mentioned a contract with Alaska Airlines which involved dropping flight crews off at the Westmark Hotel. Those fares have also dried up.

Olson lowered the daily lease on the cabs by one third to make sure that the drivers can earn a living. “I can weather the storm, and I’m just trying to make sure that my drivers are taken care of,” he said.

Precautions have also been taken to preserve social distancing. The dispatch area of the company has been sectioned off to separate drivers from dispatchers. Cleaning supplies have been made available to drivers in order to clean the cars in between shifts. And in some taxis, a shower curtain serves as a barrier between drivers and passengers, who are asked to sit in the back of the cars.

Olson encourages his drivers to wear masks during work, and secured some at the start of the pandemic.

Of the about sixty drivers contracted at the start of the pandemic, ten have temporarily stopped working out of concern for their health and safety. Despite the lower number of drivers, Olson assures the community that there are enough taxis operating to meet needs.

He also discourages groups of four or more people from using taxis during the crisis.

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