Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/12/2009 (3592 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After almost five years of appearances before city hall committees, Taxicab Board and Public Utilities Board (PUB) hearings, a commercial airport/hotel shuttle service has finally received the green light.
All Avion Services Corp. has to do now is come up with a business plan, financial statements and a contract with the Winnipeg Airports Authority to present to the PUB, and it will finally be free to start the service by April 1, 2010.
"We never imagined it would take this long, but we can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel," Shelley Tataryn, Avion's general manager, said in an interview Thursday. "But I'm still holding my sense of satisfaction in reserve until we get through the nitty-gritty details."
Those details will include purchasing and outfitting three nine-passenger cargo vans, establishing schedules and boarding areas at the airport and marketing the service at the city's hotels.
Before all that occurs, Avion also has to enter into a contract with the Winnipeg Airports Authority. None of the parties concerned say they expect that will be a problem, because the WAA owns Avion.
Avion provides facility security at the airport, including perimeter and parking-lot security, which accounts for just less than 50 per cent of its business. The company has a similar contract with the Saskatoon international airport and also does facility security for other third-party customers in Winnipeg.
Christine Alongi, spokeswoman for the WAA, said while there is no agreement in place yet, the WAA is generally supportive of this type of enterprise.
"This would be another customer-service element that we would want, regardless of who is providing it," she said.
The Public Utilities Board made it clear that Avion should not be able to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to signage or curb space relative to the taxicab and limo services that are currently available.
Tataryn said Avion plans to get the service running before the scheduled opening of the new terminal sometime next fall, so that it can get the kinks worked out of the operations.
The airport shuttle proposal has been fought tooth and nail by the Winnipeg taxi industry, which has claimed that it already adequately services airport clientele and that the presence of a less expensive shuttle will diminish its business.
In filings to the PUB, the taxi companies said the shuttle service could reduce revenues by six per cent per cab and cut $15,000 or more off the value of the licences, which have been selling for more than $400,000.
In addressing the taxicab industry's concerns, the PUB ruling suggests that the Manitoba Taxicab Board should hold a public hearing to consider revising Winnipeg taxi fares, and to address the ever-increasing transfer value of existing taxi business licences.
Earlier this month, the Taxicab Board approved a temporary increase in the base rate of taxi fares to cover the costs of new, more expensive security cameras that Winnipeg taxis are all required to have installed.
While the taxi business has been throwing up roadblocks against a shuttle, Winnipeg hotels have supported Avion for the last five years.
Jim Baker, head of the Manitoba Hotel Association, has presented at city hall committee hearings and at the PUB in support of Avion's shuttle service.
He said Winnipeg hotel customers have been asking for such a service for years and that every downtown hotel operator is keen on the concept.
"This is the only major city in Canada without an airport/hotel shuttle service," Baker said. "It is an amenity that has been missing in Winnipeg and a service that hotel patrons everywhere have come to expect."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.