Dave Wolpin has been operating his Driver Dave’s airport taxi illegally for three years, including for a year after he was formally noticed that he was operating illegally, but Wolpin is hoping the Utility and Review Board will ignore his past transgressions and give him a proper licence to operate.
Driver Dave’s was the subject of a UARB licensing hearing Tuesday. In preparation, Wolpin asked his customers for support, and received about 60 emails from students who he or one of his employees had driven to the airport. Another 750 people signed a petition in his support.
“I was expecting this many responses,” said Wolpin, while testifying under oath at the hearing. “But, I was actually really surprised by how many students had really specific stories.”
In their emails, some customers wrote of their appreciation for the times Wolpin had called them early in the morning to tell them their flights have been delayed. Others said that because Wolpin’s drivers are also students or recent graduates, the student customers could talk with the drivers, creating a sense of security.
Wolpin began running trips to the airport for students, mostly from within the King’s and Dalhousie community, back in 2009. He began with just his own car, but now he’s got one five-seater car, as well as a 14-seater.
But Wolpin only incorporated Driver Dave’s two years ago. That’s also when he received a commercial vehicle licence. Problem is, under the terms of that licence Driver Dave’s is only allowed to deliver customers picked up within the limits of HRM to destinations outside HRM. The airport is within HRM, so Wolpin was violating his licence.
Wolpin was notified of his violation of the law on February 27, 2012, in an email from the Natalie Aisthorpe, the director of the Motor Carrier Division of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. “This information is consistent with all prior communication (i.e. during your initial application process and subsequent fleet expansion),” wrote Aisthorpe. Wolpin ignored that notice and kept running his airport business anyway. Only on September 18, 2012 did Wolpin apply for a specific licence to carry customers to the airport, but driver logs and an inspection report included in the hearing file show that Driver Dave’s continued to operate, without the licence, up to last week. (See the UARB documents referenced in this article here.)
On the stand at the hearing, Wolpin was asked how he could be trusted with another licence if he has been knowingly doing something illegal.
In response, Wolpin argued he had an obligation to his clients who appreciated low-cost and easy-to-access business.
But Wolpin never told those clients the shuttle service was operating illegally. He told the hearing board Tuesday it wouldn’t have mattered to most of them, even if he had.
“It doesn’t concern me,” concurs Brianna Gilmour when informed by The Coast that Wolpin’s business has been operating illegally. “I felt safe every time I rode with them.” Gilmore is in her fourth year at Dalhousie University and has been catching rides to the airport with Driver Dave’s since her first year. Gilmore says taking a taxi to the airport would have been too costly.
“It’s such a hassle to have to get down to the bus stop,” echoes Shannah Rastin, another fourth-year Dalhousie student. “After you’ve hauled your luggage down, you aren’t even guaranteed that it will be on time.”
Wolpin’s application for a licence is opposed by several taxi and limousine companies that operate to the airport.
The UARB will likely issue a ruling in coming weeks.