Cabs and COVID: How students feel about lax coronavirus restrictions in cabs

    For many university students in Fredericton, taxi services are often the only way to get to campus. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    Third-year student Victoria Young arrived at the Fredericton airport from Winnipeg, Manitoba on Aug. 30 at 4:30 p.m. When the Checker Cab picked her up an hour later, her driver helped load in her luggage all while wearing a mask.

    But upon getting in the car, he took off his mask and kept it off for the nearly 20-minute ride. Young also said there was no barrier or plastic between her and the driver.

    “I kept my mask on the whole time. I told him that I came from the prairie bubble and would have to isolate for two weeks,” Young said.

    “He seems unbothered by the fact that I was in a car with him after travelling halfway across the country.”

    Checker Cab is the official and only taxi service of the Fredericton airport. Students flying in from other parts of Canada and around the world have few choices on how to get back to campus: get picked up or get a taxi.

    Students who have nobody to pick them up must ride Checker.

    Co-owner of Checker Cab Patrick Tahan said he “never heard” a complaint about Young’s experience.

    “People are testing positive every day, so we’re just doing our best to keep everyone
    involved safe,” he said.

    Checker Cab created a policy in March in response to the initial COVID-19 outbreak.
    Many Checker taxis are outfitted with plastic shields between the front seat and back seat and in cars where that isn’t possible, drivers are required to wear masks at all times.

    Customers also aren’t allowed to sit in the front seat.

    Tahan said it’s hard for Checker Cab to monitor its drivers to ensure they’re following company regulations.

    “There’s 40 to 50 drivers out there at any time, and they’re just as worried as everyone else,” Tahan said.

    “They’re picking people up from the airport, and we’re hoping the airport’s screening doesn’t let anything pass through.”

    A Checker Cab driver tested positive for COVID-19 in March after picking a customer up from the Fredericton airport.

    “You can’t really put it on the driver. He’s just doing his job. Luckily he was fine after
    two to three weeks,” Tahan said.

    Another transportation option for students is SafeRide, a free ride-sharing service run by the UNB Students Union, but open STU and NBCC students.

    The UNBSU wrote an operational plan that follows Public Health’s guidelines.

    “Some immediate changes students will notice are, but not limited to, lower passenger capacity, mandatory use of masks when entering and in the van, as well as self-screening questionnaires before entering the van,” STUSU vice president student life Kyle McNally said.

    SafeRide isn’t running presently, but McNally said the UNBSU will be “posting more information on the SafeRide and UNBSU Facebook pages … within the next week or so.”