As city officials grapple with Missoula's drinking and driving problem, a Missoula business owner says one simple piece of the equation is being overlooked: There aren't enough cabs at last call.
"It takes an hour to an hour and a half to two hours to get a cab in Missoula," says Tobias Bonfiglio of Capt'N Trips shuttle service.
That delay is why Bonfiglio wants to deploy a bio-bus to collect blotto residents on Friday and Saturday nights. Capt'N Trips proposes charging $10 for each roundtrip to and from a bar or event, or $5 for a one-way ride.
Bonfiglio says there's a clear need, but getting the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) on board won't be easy. The business must obtain a PSC permit, and during that process existing transportation companies potentially impacted by the service can protest.
Missoula's Green Taxi, Yellow Cab and Valet Limousine have officially filed objections to Bonfiglio's proposal, according to PSC's Wayne Budt. By law, those objections trigger a hearing before the regulatory agency, which must evaluate whether the community needs the shuttle.
"What we're looking at is basically the effect on existing carriers," Budt says.
Green Taxi owner Mick Murray says he's protesting because Bonfiglio's application leaves too many questions unanswered. For instance, would Bonfiglio's permit allow him to run a shuttle to the bar at the airport?
"Largely, it was just wording of the application," Murray says. "It wasn't clearly defined what he was applying for."
While Murray has concerns about how a Capt'N Trips shuttle might affect Green Taxi's business, he acknowledges the bar rush is, at times, tough to handle.
"You can be out there sitting around and then everybody calls at 10 [minutes] 'til 2," he says.
The PSC will discuss Bonfiglio's application during an as-yet-unscheduled hearing later this summer.