Sundance attracts tourists, taxis
January 17, 2015
While many attendees of Sundance Film Festival flock to town for a glimpse of celebrities, even more common are taxis and limos crowding the roads.
The Sundance Film Festival attracts drivers from all over hoping to make a pretty penny during one of Park City’s busiest times of year. Rebecca Gillis, accounting manager in the city’s finance department, said that each year around this time the city is flooded with taxi license applications.
"It is definitely busy," she said. "It usually starts in December and will go through Sundance, which is when we usually have the bulk of them. We’ve already licensed over 500. I believe last year we did over 600 total."
Those applying for a taxi license from the city must comply with several regulations. They must provide: proof of insurance, proof of vehicle inspection, the vehicle’s current registration and pass an FBI or airport security background check. Additionally, the company’s name must be permanently affixed to its vehicles and fares must be posted.
The process costs $71.83 for an application fee, with each vehicle that an individual or entity wishes to license costing an additional $84.73.
Despite the influx of taxi services during the festival, it seems there is plenty of business to go around. Mark Switzer, owner of Snow Riders Taxi, a year-round business in town, said his company remains plenty busy while the tourists are in town.
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"If (the outside tax services) were taking our business away, I’d probably know about it," he said. "My guess is the mechanisms of the marketplace keep that from happening. People aren’t going to come from out of town if there isn’t money to be made."
One aspect that gives the local taxi companies an edge is their knowledge of the area. Switzer said many of the outsiders can’t provide the same level of service as the locals can, and customers are quick to notice.
"People from out of town, who don’t know their way around, don’t get as much business," he said. "They don’t know the area, they don’t get repeat business — that kind of thing. Some people absolutely don’t know their way around Park City. They’re here to make money, just like everybody else, but their knowledge of Park City is pretty shallow."
With so many different taxi services in town, rates vary, as well.
"It all depends on how they price it," Switzer said. "During the film festival, the same $12 fare for one company could be $30 for another."
Phil Kirk, captain at the Park City Police Department, said taxis that skirt the law and fail to become licensed are a "moderate" problem this time of year. The amount of unlicensed taxis has fallen in recent years after the department realized it was an issue and began targeting them.
"It’s the kind of issue that if we don’t address it, it gets worse," he said. "But (our efforts) have helped considerably."
Switzer said unlicensed taxis haven’t presented any problems for his business.
"Most of the people coming in aren’t coming in unlicensed as far as I know," he said. "I think most of these taxis are licensing the way they’re obligated to under the law. It’s a pain in the butt, but I think they’re doing it. Obviously probably not everyone but the vast majority."
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