N. MIAMI, FLA. – On a recent Wednesday, Carey Limousine chauffeur Bruce Fisher closed the door of a black Lincoln Town Car for his passenger Gus Napoli at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples at 3:37 p.m. and opened it for him at Terminal A of Southwest Florida International Airport at 4:37 p.m.
Fisher, 56, drives to and from the airport frequently, but he never knows how long the 30-mile trek will take. It depends on the volume of cars, if there are any accidents or whether it is raining. It can take as little as 35 minutes and as long as two hours.
This time, it took him an hour because the traffic on Interstate 75 did not allow him to drive much faster than 45 mph. More often he was at a near-standstill, especially at the exits.
"Every day is different," Fisher said. "Some days you just want to throw in the towel. Accidents, foolishness on the road... It wears you out."
He said his days can be 12 hours long, and much of that time is spent sitting in traffic. "The rewards for those days aren't that great," said Fisher, who gets paid for each ride he gives, no matter how long it takes.
Before he began chauffeuring in Southwest Florida in 1997, Fisher had his own chauffeur business in New York. "Driving down here has to be a breeze compared to Manhattan," his passenger Napoli commented. "It's similar now," Fisher said. "It wasn't (before)."
Fisher thinks this year will probably be the worst for traffic because I-75 is just not big enough to accommodate all the cars during rush hour. According to Florida Department of Transportation traffic counts, an average of 75,000 cars per day traveled on I-75 north of Immokalee Road in 2003, up from an average of 65,500 cars per day in 2002.