New electric shuttles offering free rides in Victoria; taxi …

20 Май 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи New electric shuttles offering free rides in Victoria; taxi … отключены
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New electric shuttles offering free rides in Victoria; taxi drivers feeling burned

James Whitney with his dog Billy in front of two of Zeebus electric shuttles being used to give people tours around downtown Victoria.

A new fleet of quiet electric tourist-shuttles offering free rides in downtown Victoria has sparked an outcry from taxi drivers who fear the new outfit is cutting into their income.

Dubbed a Zeebus, the bright-green shuttles began offering lifts on Tuesday, with drivers in training taking people around downtown, James Bay and Beacon Hill Park.

Rides are free for now because the company behind the eye-catching, open-air shuttles, Pro-Motion Electric Vehicles Ltd. is waiting for a provincial passenger transportation vehicle number.

The City of Victoria requires the company have the number before charging for rides, said Zeebus manager James Whitney on Friday. Other required approvals are already in place.

A 90-minute Zeebus tour is expected to cost $28 per person, he said. A shuttle, fitted with lap belts, can carry between 10 and 14 passengers.

In the meantime, 20 drivers, who are accepting tips, are taking turns with the six shuttles. Another 10 drivers are needed.

Sean Convey, general manager of Victoria Taxi, which counts tourism as one of its key revenue sources, said, “This just takes food off the table of a taxi driver … It’s another gouge on the taxi driver.”

Taxis operate within a regulated environment, which includes rules on how much they can charge and requiring permits to serve areas such as Ogden Point, he said.

As part of the city’s transportation infrastructure, Convey said taxi companies should have been notified about plans for a new operation.

“My office is going to be flooded with questions [from taxi drivers],” he said.

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The Zeebus shuttles look something like an extended golf cart. They are a novelty on city streets, Whitney said, noting people are stopping to look at the vehicles and ask questions.

They are entirely electric powered and have no emissions, making them suitable for neighbourhoods — such as James Bay — where residents have complained about the noise and emissions from large buses, Whitney said.

Whitney is the former owner of Victoria’s Kabuki Cabs, which ceased operations in 2011. He said he’s not an investor in the new company, which is owned by a group of local residents. Future plans include selling the four- and six-passenger vehicles, as well as heavier-duty versions, in the Victoria and Vancouver markets.

Cars will cost between $10,000 and $12,000, though not all municipalities allow low-speed vehicles on public roads.

Shuttle revenues will come from selling advertising on a video screen inside the vehicles and on wrap-around displays on their exteriors. Other uses could include a shuttle service carrying cruise ship passengers between Ogden Point and downtown.

A City of Victoria official said that a business licence to operate sightseeing vehicles can not be considered until the provincial process is completed, adding that the way the Zeebus is being used does not trigger the city’s licensing requirements under its Vehicles for Hire Bylaw.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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