September 6 – MITCHELL – And then there was one.
After the closure of two local services this year, Mitchell has had only one taxi company operating during the day and late at night. About four years ago, there were more than a handful of Lyft drivers, three local taxi companies and the city’s public transportation service operating in Mitchell.
While transportation options have dwindled dramatically in recent years, Palace Transit, the city of Mitchell’s transit provider, has seen an increase in ridership.
“The ridership has really increased. We’re looking to add another full-time staff member to drive,” said Jessica Pickett, the city’s community services manager who manages Palace Transit’s operations.
Palace Transit provided nearly 15,000 more rides this year than in 2021 with four months remaining in 2022. In 2021, the city’s transit service handled 58,173 passengers. To date, 73,142 runners have been served this year.
The decline in available taxi service and increased ridership prompted Palace Transit to begin offering same-day rides for $10 in July. And the new service is booming, Pickett said.
From the first day that same-day service began on July 18 through August 30, Palace Transit provided a total of 126 same-day rides, Pickett said. Prior to rolling out the same-day ride service, Palace Transit required passengers to plan their rides a day in advance.
“This large number of same-day rides during this period only occurs during our hours of operation, which are Monday through Friday 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday morning and afternoon until 4 p.m.,” said Pickett, noting that there are usually nine buses running throughout the day.
Pickett pointed to the increase in passenger numbers Palace Transit is handling as an example that there is a “major need” for additional taxi services to provide transportation in a city of more than 15,000 people. She hopes that another taxi company will appear in the near future.
“We can’t do much with our transportation operations. What are people supposed to do if they want to go see a movie in the evening or go shopping after 6 p.m.? We can’t serve them because we close at 6 p.m. hours,” Pickett said.
Making Mitchell’s transportation industry more complex is the only local taxi company that operates, Speedy Taxi, has been shrouded in controversy over the years for alleged poor driving habits and the owner’s past legal troubles.
Dustin Feistner, the owner of Speedy Taxi, had previously been denied his license by Mitchell City Council in June 2021, in part due to his past legal issues – which included aggravated assault and unlawful possession of gun.
At a city council meeting in early January 2022, the council changed course and approved Speedy Taxi’s operating license after Feistner pointed out that it was being rehabilitated and stressed the need for another service. taxi to Mitchell and noted that “there are many times and days when there is no transportation at all.”
With Speedy Taxi being the only transport company to offer rides for people until 2.30am – according to its online opening hours – it remains for Mitchell traders looking for a sober return with limited options.
Giovanni Lanier, bartender at Thirsty’s in Mitchell, said the lack of early morning taxi services when bars close at 2am has had a negative impact on the bar and nightclub sector.
“It would be great and rewarding to have another taxi option. Not having options has affected Mitchell’s nightlife and bars,” Lanier said. “We need more and better options for taxis. That’s for sure.”
During a brief stint several years ago, Pickett said city leaders asked Palace Transit to offer bus rides until the wee hours of the morning to handle bar crowds because there were no taxis in service at that time. With only one taxi remaining, Mitchell is closer than ever to being in the same scenario.
However, Pickett said she didn’t even have the staff to take the night bus service.
“We just don’t have the staff to take something like that right now,” she said.
When the first app-based ride company, Lyft, made its way to Mitchell in 2018, it quickly became a popular mode of transportation.
At that time, Mitchell City Council was seeing new Lyft driver requests about every two months.
In 2019, there were at least seven Lyft drivers operating at the same time. However, there don’t appear to be any Lyft drivers available serving Mitchell, according to Lanier and several other Mitchell residents who have tried using the app for a ride this year.
“I haven’t seen one in a while,” Lanier said.
Although Lyft’s annual app was renewed in 2021, which allowed drivers to operate in Mitchell throughout 2022, it’s unclear if there are any Lyft drivers operating in the area.
The city has adopted a new, streamlined process for approving Lyft drivers in 2021 that allows the major ride-hailing company to pay a one-time application fee each year.
Previously, every Lyft driver had to pay application fees and be approved by the board to operate as private taxi companies. The new change put the approval of every Lyft driver in the hands of the company, eliminating the city’s ability to keep tabs on the number of Lyft drivers operating in Mitchell.
While it’s unclear if there are active Lyft drivers, the demand is there.
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