MASSENA — The village of Massena doesn’t currently have 24-hour coverage from the two taxi companies that operate in the village limits. But there may be a solution that, while not providing 24-hour coverage, will come close.
“We are developing a plan so that we can work longer hours. Technology is going to be a part of it. We’re pretty close to having implementation of that. It still doesn’t give us 24-hour coverage, but it gets us pretty darn close,” Michael Zakarauskas from Massena Transport and Taxi, Inc. said during Tuesday’s Massena Village Board meeting.
He said he wasn’t ready to publicly disclose what the plan was, although he said Police Chief Adam J. Love and trustees were aware of it.
“I do have a plan. I am working on it and I think we can make big progress in the next few weeks. We’re testing it as we speak. We’ll see where the next couple of weeks goes, but we do have plans to increase it. At this point we don’t have plans for 24 hours. We’re not opposed to going to 24 hours. For that, we’re going to need your help. We’re going to need your help with rates,” Mr. Zakarauskas said.
Mayor Timmy J. Currier said “a number of people” had called to share their concerns about not having 24-hour coverage in the village, although there was some “sporadic operation from what I understand.”
“We currently, generally speaking, have no coverage at night right now. The cab companies are typically not operating,” he said.
Mr. Zakarauskas and Bruce Green from Green Cab said one of the difficulties was outside companies or individuals coming into the village and picking up riders.
“It makes it very hard. Several people out there are saying they’re doing calls in town for five bucks without a taxi license,” Mr. Green said.
He said the cost of running an operation, from insurance and worker’s compensation to paying a dispatcher, have risen. But he was paying a dispatcher $140 a night without any or few calls.
“After a while you have to say no, enough is enough,” he said.
“Several years ago I brought this to the attention of a few of you. I foresaw this coming. Other parts of my business can’t subsidize transportation of the public. There comes a point where it’s not there,” Mr. Zakarauskas said.
“The outside companies are coming in and grabbing the cherries, leaving the pits for the rest of us. There’s no way around it. I know the board’s hands are tied. You can’t stop outside (cabs) from coming in and grabbing the good ones. But we needed that pie to have a complete 24-hour operation. Everybody started coming in and picking at it and there was nothing left. They wanted us to do the rest. My pocket’s only so deep. That’s why we stopped running at night,” he said.
Chief Love said they wanted to “make this work for our community without raising the costs.”
“Maybe it’s meeting individually with the cab companies also and assisting with what they need. One of the biggest things is how do we make this work for everybody? It’s a challenge,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire said that, while he was happy that technology was being addressed, the board still needed specifics to make any decisions.
He said that in the past board members had indicated that they were willing to look at and listen to specific proposals but had received nothing regarding rate increases or any other recommendations.
“I would throw that suggestion back out there. Write that up. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Give us something specific so we can evaluate it as a board. The board is never just going to pull something out of the air and decide arbitrarily to make a change. It has to be based on sound reasoning, and that sound reasoning is going to come from the experts,” Mr. LeBire said.