Economy

Washington state transport companies looking forward to Vancouver Olympics

"Once you get to the SkyTrain in Surrey, it's easy to get into downtown (Vancouver)," said Boule, who also owns Smuggler's Inn Bed & Breakfast, located right on the border in Blaine.

With about a month to go, Boule said reservations are starting to fill up, but it's still slower than he expected.

"We're getting a lot of phone calls inquiring about Smuggler's Inn and transportation, but I think what we'll be seeing is a lot of last-minute requests," Boule said.

Frank Botta, a member of Blue Cab LLC, expects the border crossing to be the biggest challenge for people traveling into Canada. He plans to have Blue Cab stationed at Birch Bay Square, where the retail store US Souvenirs is planning several events, including Olympic pin trading.

Botta said his company plans to coordinate with Canadian taxi companies to help those going to the Olympics. Here's how: Blue Cab will drop the customer off at the border and the customer will then check in at the Canadian customs building. After showing identification, they can walk across the border and hop into a Canadian taxi cab. Blue Cab also will transport visitors from the border back to Bellingham.

While they won't get the uptick in business by actually taking people to the venues, Blue Cab drivers expect to see increased fares in what is typically one of the slowest months of the year for local taxi companies.

"I think we'll see at least a 25 percent jump for the month," Botta said.

Making a connection to the Olympics proved to be difficult for Ferndale-based Bellair Charters/Airporter Shuttle to do on its own, said Richard Johnson, president of the company. The company started communicating with border officials two years ago, but Johnson determined they couldn't assure customers they would be able to get them to the various destinations on time, so they scrapped the plan.

However, Bellair was able to contract 20 of its vehicles to a Canadian firm and hire 24 temporary drivers to shuttle people, possibly athletes, around to the Olympic venues.

"It's nice, because it'll be good work for them (the drivers)," Johnson said. "It'll be cool for them to say that they participated in the 2010 Olympics."

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