New Aroostook County taxi company fills public transportation void

10 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton area residents without vehicles or driver licenses will finally have a ride to work or the grocery store when L & L Transportation opens a new Houlton taxi service this month. 

Shiretown Taxi stopped offering service earlier this year after expanding its operations last year.

L & L Transportation handles contract transportation in several Maine counties and has offices in Ellsworth, Calais, Van Buren and Houlton. L & L Transportation owner Alayna Broad said that she decided to start the 24/7 taxi service with two vehicles already in her fleet after people in Houlton contacted her about offering the transportation.

It’s nearly impossible for people to get around Aroostook County without a vehicle or a license because public transportation is practically nonexistent in rural areas of northern Maine. A local taxi service, like L & L,  provides a crucial service to those trying to reach medical appointments or even get groceries.

On Monday night, after L & L Transportation garnered initial approval from Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca, the town council unanimously approved the company’s application for a taxi license. The Houlton Police Department must inspect the company vehicles prior to L & L Transportation running the taxi service, Broad said.

In 2021, AJ Boyce and Clayton Willigar stopped by Shiretown Taxi in Houlton, owned at the time by Barbara Ganem. They were hoping to rent a garage space from Ganem for their construction workers to detail cars and give their employees more hours during COVID-19. 

By the time the two left that day, Boyce had purchased the taxi business, a few vehicles and the taxi buildings on Bangor Street. A year later, the taxi company had an 11-vehicle fleet with drivers making 65-to-70 daily round-trip runs all over the state, according to an interview with Boyce in 2022. 

Boyce could not be reached for comment about why he closed the taxi business earlier this year. 

In addition to L & L Transportation, Ganem also applied for a taxi license with the town to revive Shiretown Taxi. But the town council tabled their decision on Ganem’s taxi license because Councilor Sue Tortello had questions about the business address and how many vehicles would be in Ganem’s fleet and how many employees will be involved. 

“On the application it says the business address is 42 Court St. I was curious: will this be where the taxi cab service will be operating?” Tortello asked. “If so, this is in an R-2 zone and I’m not sure if a taxi cab service is allowable in that zone.”

An R2 zone is residential, according to Houlton zoning ordinances.

Ganem was not present at the town council meeting, to answer the questions.

In an interview on Monday afternoon, Ganem said she would operate her one vehicle taxi service from her home from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

As far as fees, a round trip from downtown to Walmart would be $15, or one-way at $10, she said.

L & L Transportation taxis will operate on a zone pricing system, Broad said. Rides in a two-mile radius of downtown are $5, the next two miles would be in Zone Two and that would be $7. A trip from Cary Library in downtown Houlton to Walmart is 1.5 miles and that would be in Zone One for $5 one way. The company will also offer loyalty cards that give regular riders a discount. 

Hunter Muncie will manage the Houlton location, Broad said. 

During the town council meeting, Muncie explained that if the business grows and they add more vehicles and employees, they would move from their 106 Main St. location to a larger office space. 

They are currently talking with the owners of the old Burger King regarding that space, he said.

All L & L Transportation drivers are certified in CPR, first aid and are Passenger Assistance, Safety and Sensitivity trained, according to Broad.  

“We’re excited. Once we get all our approvals, we’re going to open ASAP,” Broad said.