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BCBO-Burgess-ComplaintsDepartment-September09_5.jpg
Is the Canada Line killing cabbies' bread-and-butter business to YVR?

The new SkyTrain to YVR is great news for most people. But whither the poor cabbie?

The Canada Line is running. A train to the airport – it’s about time. I speak as someone who once, in a younger, more foolish incarnation, tried to take a city bus to the airport. I was heading home for Christmas. I left myself about 90 minutes. Yes, I know. Every single block some schlep would ring the bell, the bus would trundle over to the curb . . . and I spent Christmas in Vancouver. For months afterward, I woke up screaming, “The bells! The bells!”

Now, a train. This is more like it. Although the Canada Line opened ahead of schedule, it seems long overdue. From Hong Kong to Tokyo to Rome, rapid airport transit is the mark of a city that has its act together. An airport train is an environmentally friendly feature for any city. That’s particularly true for Vancouver, where the line has already reduced emissions by helping destroy businesses along the Cambie Street corridor. Fewer customers, less traffic – better for the environment.

Getting vehicles off the road was the idea, although perhaps not quite like that. But even according to the official plan, someone’s business was always going to suffer as a result of the new train: taxi drivers. The lack of rapid transit to the airport has always been a boon for Lower Mainland hacks. Now, with this increased competition, their fares are bound to plummet. And that leaves some of us in an awkward position.

I live about 15 blocks from the nearest Canada Line stop. An invigorating walk, you might say. But I travel with a suitcase that should come with licence plates. The easiest way to get it to the station would probably involve four tires and some sort of motor, or possibly a pole to punt it along the sidewalk. While the new train is welcome, I am still going to need some way to get to the starting line. So the question now becomes, How to get to the train station?

The obvious answer is, call a cab. But geez. Isn’t that going to be rather uncomfortable? What’s it going to be like when that cab pulls up, you trundle out the door with all your baggage in tow, the cabbie starts calculating that big fare out to Sea Island and then you say, “Canada Line station, please.”

Man. Awkward. Bad enough that this poor driver, perhaps a struggling student or out-of-work actor, is taking it on the chin from the Canada Line. But now here you are rubbing his nose in it. It’s like calling up your ex-wife and asking for a ride to your girlfriend’s place.

It is time to start planning ahead for this difficult situation. The key is developing cover stories, plausible excuses. You might tell the driver to take you to the Pan Pacific or the Fairmont Waterfront, where you will soon be enjoying a relaxing getaway vacation minus the expensive airfare. From there it’s a short hop to Waterfront Station. You might explain that your suitcase is in fact a very primitive laptop. You might give the address of a luggage repair shop located close to a Canada Line station – I sincerely hope such a store exists.

Poking ventilation holes in the suitcase and speaking to it in a soothing manner might convince the driver you are taking a distressed animal to the vet, but that seems extreme. A simpler solution would be asking a friend or partner to stand on the doorstep yelling, “And don’t come back, you two-timing louse!”

Or you can just brazen it out, in which case, good for you. Maybe the driver will even open the trunk for you when you arrive.