In Bethel, Cab Companies Thrive
Small city in western Alaska has a taxi for roughly every 100 people
BETHEL - It may just be a small city in western Alaska, but Bethel likely boasts the most cabs per capita in the entire United States.
If you need transportation around the city of Bethel, you've got options. You could hop a ride on an ATV or snowmachine, or maybe even a dog sled. But for most folks, it means calling a cab. And Bethel has plenty of them.
Bethel resident Jerri Moran says cabs appear less then two minutes after calling one. That's because there's one taxicab for roughly every 100 people here. That's more cabs per capita then the city of Manhattan.
The reason for such a high tally of taxis is that Bethel can only be accessed by boat or plane, which makes getting a car here an expensive job. And with fuel costs over $7 per gallon, many people would rather just call for a ride.
Naim Shabani started driving cabs here 12 years ago. He wasn't sure what to expect when he first arrived from Chicago. “It's very different. It’s one of those places that you need to experience for yourself, it's so unique.”
On this day, he waited for passengers outside a general store. “This is the business district of Bethel.” On slow days, there are sometimes more cabs then cars parked here.
“They almost expect that a cab will be waiting outside; if there isn't they will call and say ‘where are the cabs? What are you guys doing?’”
On busier days, cabs are shared. Out-of-towners might be surprised when a family of strangers piles in. But Barbara Cosolito says most residents don't mind. “It's an opportunity to get to meet people in Bethel – you often learn a lot by riding in a cab.”
Another unique thing about cabs in Bethel is that the rate is set by the city, so any cab around town will cost you five dollars, no matter how far you go, and no matter how many people the cab picks up along the way.