GALENA, Ill. – The closure of Galena’s only taxi company is causing concern among local businesses about the lack of transportation options in the city and surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, city officials are looking for ridesharing services such as Uber, which is licensed in the city, to fill the void, but the company appears to be running out of local drivers.
Eco Cab Taxi Service, which has served the Galena region for five years, announced its closure this week.
âDue to rising operating costs, it is no longer profitable to keep my business open, so I will close immediately,â owner and operator Jacqueline Gasparro said on the company’s Facebook page.
Reached via social media, Gasparro did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
City administrator Mark Moran has confirmed that Eco Cab is the only licensed taxi company operating in the city. While local business owners wished Gasparro good luck, they also said they were concerned about the transportation difficulties that could result from the closure.
âI think we need a cab service in Galena, or Uber or something,â said Linda Pluym, owner of Paradise Bar & Grill on Main Street. “When we invite people to Galena, we should have some type of (transport) service during the evening.”
Moran said Uber has been licensed to provide services to Galena since September. City council approved an ordinance allowing ridesharing companies to operate in the city in March 2020.
The last Uber license was renewed on May 1.
However, he said he was not sure the rideshare company had drivers operating locally. His testing efforts using the Uber app to find an available driver in Galena were unsuccessful.
âI think part of the problem with the lack of drivers locally is the pandemic itself, when carpooling wasn’t even an option for a while,â Moran said.
Uber did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Catherine Kouzmanoff, owner of Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape on Main Street, said transportation service is needed to prevent tourists staying in Galena Territory from feeling ‘isolated’ and becoming less likely to visit businesses in the center. -city.
As a bar owner, she is also concerned about the increased risk of drinking and driving with the loss of Eco Cab.
âI think DUIs are going to increase,â she said.
Pluym was unsure how many of her customers used Eco Cab’s services after a night out at the bar, but she said transportation services offer more than a safe return for those who have been drinking.
âA lot of people stay downtown, but not everyone,â she said. âWhen people come from the territory of Galena or anywhere that cannot be reached on foot, (the transport services) make people more comfortable. We don’t want anyone to get a ticket or get lost.
Thomas Ruhs, general manager of Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena Territory, said resort guests often rely on Eco Cab services when the resort shuttle was not available.
âIf we can’t get them to these places, a taxi is the only option,â he said. âOn weekends in particular, our shuttles are busy with groups and weddings, so they are not always availableâ¦ (but) a taxi is readily available and can take people anywhere.â
He said he had never seen clients at the resort use a ridesharing service.
âIt is unfortunate that the only taxi service in the community is shutting down,â he said.
Whether it’s a taxi or an Uber, Kouzmanoff said transportation options are key to alleviating parking difficulties that might otherwise deter tourists and locals from coming downtown.
âWe just don’t have a transportation solution to prevent people from parking downtown,â she said. âYou’re driving here on a Saturday, (and) people are parked up to Franklin (Street) and are walking into town.â
With Uber already licensed in the city, Moran hopes the company can hire more drivers to fill the void left by the Eco Cab closure.
He said the city could contact Uber to potentially work with them to recruit drivers, and he encouraged area residents interested in becoming drivers to visit Uber’s website.
âWe know that a lot of our visitors are already used to using carpools like Uber and Lyft, so we think it’s a natural fit for our community,â he said.