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Northern chauffeur debuts

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 17, 2008

ULUKHAKTOK/HOLMAN - "You need a taxi?" That's how Larry Olifie, the driving force behind Ulukhaktok Taxi Service, answered the phone, Tuesday.

Olifie has lived in Ulukhaktok his whole life and operates the company's lone cab - a 12-seat Ford E-350 van.

"We started on August 29," he said.

"It's been pretty well every day for the last three months almost."

The taxi service, funded by the development corporation, saw quite a bit of business early on, but lately Olifie admits since the snow arrived and people have broken out their skidoos, calls have tapered off.

"It's been very slow since we have snowmobiles out now," he said.

Olifie charges people a five-dollar flat rate fare for rides in town and ten bucks a head to-or-from the airport.

When the service was first announced over the community radio, Olifie said he was busy dealing with the novelty of having a new taxi in town.

The first weekend, for instance, he said some kids called for a ride to go the gymnasium.

"They were waiting for ten minutes," he said.

"They said 'we could have been there by now, but we wanted to ride in the taxi'," he said with a laugh.

Olifie has had the big 12-seater filled up a couple times.

"I had a full court party van," he said.

"The court party came into town and I had to make a couple trips. I probably had 10 in there with all their stuff and had to go back for a couple more people."

"I have Imperial Oil coming in tomorrow morning," he said Tuesday.

"So I can see a couple trips in and out."

Most of his trips carry people the approximately 1.5 miles to the airport, he said.

Ulukhaktok has flights arriving and departing six days a week, from Monday to Saturday.

"I'd say 75 per cent of my trips are out to the airport," he said.

"Practically every day if the weather is nice."

Olifie stays on duty until around ten in the evening and says he likes to have the van started up by 8 a.m.

He said with the days getting colder - it was -23 C on Tuesday - it takes longer to get the van nice and toasty.

"It takes about 45 minutes to get all heated up in the morning," he said.

Unfortunately, Olifie said the taxi service can't help everyone in town at this point.

"There is no escalator for people with wheelchairs in town," he said, explaining people who use wheelchairs rely on other hamlet vehicles.

His taxi service, however, does offer free service to those 65-and-older.

Olifie doesn't work all the time. He has a back-up driver for when he leaves town or is unable to operate the taxi.

As for his customers, Olifie described them as "a bunch of happy people always."

"I hope it stays that way," he said.