Public transit debuts in Summerside

Public transit in Summerside made its debut Tuesday morning, and it's already facing some controversy.

Cab companies fear public transit will kill business

Public transit in Summerside made its debut Tuesday morning, and it's already facing some controversy.

Cab companies say the one-year-pilot program for bus service could threaten their business.

David Bradshaw, owner of Team Taxi, worries public transit could hurt his business. (CBC)

At Team Taxi's office on Tuesday, staff said the calls were coming in steadily, but they are worried that won't always be the case because of public transit.

On Friday, the city and Trius Transit announced a one-year-pilot project for privately-operated bus service in the city.

Summerside is giving Trius Transit $2,500 a month to operate the bus service.

Cab companies claim the city is favouring one private venture over others.

"The way I look at it, if there's any funding, why wouldn't they provide it to the two cab companies to help with the seniors? Subsidize us," said David Bradshaw, founder of Team Taxi.

Mayor Basil Stewart says it's time for Summerside to embrace public transit, a system that many jurisdictions subsidize in order to keep fares low.

The city maintains lower fares shouldn't hurt the cab companies.

Mike Cassidy, owner of Trius Transit, says bus service won't hurt cab companies' business. (CBC)

"It's basically a different clientele. And as well, the buses won't be operating on the weekends or the evenings, so it shouldn't affect the taxis. That's what we have been advised," Stewart said.

Trius Transit owner Mike Cassidy says he faced similar complaints from taxi owners when he launched bus service in Charlottetown and the surrounding communities in 2005.

"We did not bite into the business of the cab companies. And if you want to put it into a number, perhaps five per cent," Cassidy said.

Bradshaw fears that number will be higher in Summerside.

"You're going to start starving a lot of taxis. And then you're going to get 25 cars down to 10....10 cars ain't gonna service the bar nights. They're not going to do it. So you're going to have a lot more impaired driving," Bradshaw said.

For now they'll wait to see how many people choose to take the bus over hailing a cab.

Trius hopes to attract about 300 passengers a day.