GALENA, Ill. — The closure of Galena’s only cab company is prompting concern from local businesses about a lack of transportation options in the city and surrounding area.
Meanwhile, city officials are looking to ride-sharing services such as Uber, which is licensed in the city, to fill the gap, but the company appears to lack local drivers.
Eco Cab Taxi Service, which has served the Galena area for the past five years, announced its closure this week.
“Due to rising operational costs, it is no longer profitable to keep my business open, therefore I will close immediately,” owner and operator Jacqueline Gasparro posted on the business’ Facebook page.
Reached via social media, Gasparro did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
City Administrator Mark Moran confirmed that Eco Cab was the only licensed cab company operating in the city. While local business owners wished Gasparro well, they also said they were concerned about transportation difficulties that might result from the closure.
“I think we need cab service in Galena, or Uber or something,” said Linda Pluym, owner of Paradise Bar & Grill on Main Street. “When we invite people to Galena, we should have some type of (transportation) service running during the evenings.”
Moran said that Uber has been licensed to provide services in Galena since September. The City Council approved an ordinance allowing ride-sharing companies to operate in the city in March 2020.
The Uber license most recently was renewed on May 1.
However, he said he was not sure if the ride-sharing company has any drivers operating locally. His test efforts using the Uber app to find an available driver in Galena have been unsuccessful.
“I think part of the issue with the absence of drivers locally is the pandemic itself, when ride-sharing wasn’t even an option for a period of time,” Moran said.
Uber did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Catherine Kouzmanoff, the owner of Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape on Main Street, said a transportation service is necessary to prevent tourists staying in The Galena Territory from feeling “isolated” and becoming less likely to visit downtown businesses.
As a bar owner, she also worries about the increased potential for drinking and driving with the loss of Eco Cab.
“I think DUIs will go up,” she said.
Pluym was unsure how many of her customers used Eco Cab’s services after an evening at the bar, but she said transportation services offer more than a safe ride home for those who have been imbibing.
“A lot of people stay downtown, but not everybody does,” she said. “When people come from The Galena Territory or anywhere not within walking distance, (transportation services) just make people more comfortable. We don’t want anybody to get a ticket or get lost.”
Thomas Ruhs, general manager of Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in The Galena Territory, said guests at the resort often relied on Eco Cab’s services when the resort’s shuttle was unavailable.
“If we can’t shuttle them to these locations, the cab’s the only option,” he said. “On the weekends especially, our shuttles are busy with groups and weddings, so they’re not always available … (but) a cab is readily available and can shuttle people anywhere.”
He said he has never seen resort guests use a ride-sharing service.
“It’s unfortunate that the only taxi service in the community is closing its doors,” he said.
Whether it’s a cab or an Uber, Kouzmanoff said transportation options are essential to mitigate parking difficulties that might otherwise deter tourists and locals from coming downtown at all.
“We just don’t have a transportation solution to get people to not park downtown,” she said. “You drive down here on a Saturday, (and) people are parked all the way up Franklin (Street) and just walking to town.”
As Uber is already licensed within the city, Moran hopes the company will be able to hire more drivers to fill the void left by Eco Cab’s closure.
He said the city might reach out to Uber to potentially work with it to recruit drivers, and he encouraged area residents interested in becoming drivers to visit Uber’s website.
“We know many of our visitors are already accustomed to using ride-shares such as Uber and Lyft, so we feel it’s a natural fit for our community,” he said.