Driver Dave's days could be numbered

A shuttle service run by a former Dal/King’s grad is in danger of being shut down. Dave Wolpin’s airport shuttle service — Driver Dave’s — will go before the Utility and Review Board on Tuesday.

A shuttle service run by a former Dal/King’s grad is in danger of being shut down.
Dave Wolpin’s airport shuttle service — Driver Dave’s — will go before the Utility and Review Board on Tuesday.
The hearing is to determine whether or not Wolpin’s application for a Motor Carrier Licence will be granted.
If successful, the licence would allow Wolpin to legally operate his two 14-passenger vans within the Halifax Regional Municipality.
But several taxi and limousine companies are opposing Wolpin’s application.
Wolpin believes it’s because he poses too much competition.
“How are these laws so monopolistic that I’m not allowed to enjoy the free market that we live in? It’s not so free,” he says.
Any business which holds aMotor Carrier Licencealready is able to object to the granting of a licence to a competitor. Since limousines can seat more than nine people, they can object to Wolpin’s application.
A group of taxi owners/operators, Coach Atlantic Group, V.I.P Limousine and Taxi Services, and Prestige Limousine and Taxi are opposing Wolpin’s licence.
In letters addressed to the Utility and Review Board, the opponents argued there is insufficient demand and Wolpin is attempting to circumvent the regulations.
“With the downturn in the economy, the market will not support another vehicle of this type,” reads a letter from Steve Pace of V.I.P Limousine and Taxi Services.
A letter from a group of taxi owner-operators reads, “We feel the public is adequately serviced.”
There are approximately 1,000 taxis within the HRM and 204 licensed to pickup and drop-off at the airport, reads the letter.
But Wolpin says the demand for his service is there.
Since he started Driver Dave’s in early 2010, Wolpin’s team has driven more than 7,000 customers and logged more than 40,000 rides. He’s even compiled a petition of more than 1,000 signatures in support of his service.
“None of them are operating 14-passenger vans. No one takes a stretch limo from Howe Hall to the airport. These limo drivers are opposing me because they also own taxis.”
Tim Auld, a taxi owner operator, says the opponents hope to prove in the hearing that Wolpin’s business is illegal.
“He’s trying to sneak in the back door as an unlicensed individual. He’s doing taxi business and he’s not a taxi,” says Auld.
Wolpin currently holds a Commercial Van Licence, which allows him to pick up and exit the municipality, or pick up and enter the municipality.
“I asked [the Motor Carrier Board] what I needed to drive students to the airport and they gave me a CV licence.”
Wolpin found out a year later he couldn’t pick up and drop off within the municipality.
For example, he can drive a student from Howe Hall to Acadia, but can’t drive from Howe Hall to the airport, because the airport is still part of the HRM.
Auld says Wolpin’s business raises issues of passenger safety and doesn’t follow established rules in the transportation industry. Taxi drivers undergo criminal record checks every year. Wolpin’s drivers do not undergo record checks.
But Wolpin points to a different form of passenger safety — more than 1,000,000 kilometres driven and not a single accident.
Competitive industry
Auld says students have misconceptions about cab pricing to and from the airport.
“We want to get the word out that we can do it every bit as cheap as he can.”
For example, for a group of five people Driver Dave charges $20 per head. Auld says for a group of five people in his minivan, it’s $63 and another $7 for the minivan charge. It’s a saving of approximately six dollars per person.
But for individuals looking for a lift, Driver Dave’s is the cheaper option at $30 a seat, compared to around $63 for a cab.
Carly Barrington, a third-year Dal student, thinks $63 is too much to pay for a ride to the airport.
“I think $40 is more reasonable. It’s unfortunate the airport is so far away though.”
Cody Lockett, a fourth-year Dalhousie student, thinks cab fares are reasonable.
“They’re alright. $55 is a lot better than they could be,” he says.
Auld says Driver Dave’s threatens the competitiveness of taxi drivers who also rely on students, especially during rush periods when school is back in session.
“It’s a huge bump for three or four days, and it shows on our bottom line.”
“I don’t think he’s a long-term player because of the prices. When you take someone out to the airport in a Surburban, it’s going to cost $12-$15 in gas, $4.30 for the airport fee, if you hire a driver, how much you’re paying him,” says Auld.
“The Airporter and all of its predecessors, none of them have ever made a go at it,” he says.
But Wolpin isn’t in the business for the money.
“The thing about Dave is he doesn’t make any money from Driver Dave’s,” says Kyle Stewart, one of Dave’s full-time drivers. “Any money that goes towards him goes back into the company.”
“For him, to fight for this company so much when his bread and butter is back in New Brunswick, just says something about his character,” says Stewart.
Wolpin has said he would happily step down from Driver Dave’s if someone could beat the service he provides, but he’s confident that’s not going to happen.
“It’s such a big mess, and someone who doesn’t have a commercial interest needs to fix it.”
“Right now, what exists is absolutely unacceptable,” says Wolpin.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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