Life as a taxi dispatch
Where the phone never stops

Brent Crooks
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Jan 25/99) - Filling the shoes of Huey Blackburn would hardly be easy, especially when it comes to keeping up to the 25 taxis he has to organize to pick up and deliver customers to their destinations.

Blackburn, a veteran taxi dispatcher of 10 years in Iqaluit, said, "After spending a decade in this busy industry, I've gained the experience needed to not get stressed when the phone goes off the hook."

Now that Iqaluit is growing in population, Blackburn said he finds the demand for transportation has increased.

"Being a dispatcher and all, I get swamped with calls and can usually receive up to 200 calls per hour or a total of 2,500 calls on a Friday or Saturday," said Blackburn.

The taxi companies Blackburn works for are a joint venture between Pai-Pa Taxi and the Nanook Polar Taxi Company. Working together through the same dispatcher makes for a busy day for Blackburn but quicker service to the town's residents.

Some residents feel it's not so speedy, however.

"With no street names and the organization of house and building numbers being scattered, it sometimes takes longer to find certain places," Blackburn explained. Because the demand for taxis tends to surge up and down, some customers end up waiting longer than others.

There are approximately five taxi companies in town and the cars consist of everything from old Chevrolets to brand new sedans and four-wheel drive vehicles.

While Iqaluit is not a very large community and could probably be driven around in well under an hour, when it's -60C, $3.75 seems so minimal.

"Areas in town you would probably see most infested by taxis are the Northern Store, Tulugak Bar, Arctic Ventures and the Legion, of course," said Blackburn.

"Taxis are on the road 24 hours a day on weekends and about 20 hours a day Monday through Friday. Weeknights get really slow after the bar and Legion close down. Just some time ago, taxis would operate around the clock every day and now we shut down around 4 a.m. on weekdays because it's just too slow," said Blackburn.

So if your next taxi is late, try to take it easy on the dispatcher. It's usually not his fault.