Calgary’s taxi boss plans to put forward “bold” new rules that will require every one of the city’s 1,526 cabs to be running during weekend peak-demand hours.
The sweeping changes would be a far step above conditions currently imposed on the 115 taxi licenses released in 2012 and 2013 requiring them to be operational on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Marc Halat, the city’s chief livery officer, said it will now be the responsibility of each plateholder to ensure their vehicle is on the road from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights every week. Similar rules would be in place for the 10 days of the Calgary Stampede, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day as well as Thursday and Sunday evenings on long weekends and when inclement weather has created severe delays with transporting paying customers.
“Something’s got to give and the only other alternative is to open up the system, which will dilute the market . . . this is the right answer,” Halat said. “There are casual and part-time drivers. There is the capability to sub your car out to these other drivers — I don’t think these restrictions are that harsh, I really don’t.”
The taxi manager said the move aims to address concerns from critics that the city’s “slow-release” taxi-plate system is dated and also aims to undercut what he described as a growing number of “gypsy cabs” working city streets.
“There’s a risk with those that isn’t in the public interest,” he said of the rogue vehicles, which are operated by everyday citizens and tend to lack proper insurance.
Halat’s team also explored granting more freedom to luxury sedan vehicles to operate in a similar manner as taxis during peak periods but the fear is would undercut profits for the lower-priced operators.
He said he hopes the new licence conditions will come into effect before the start of this year’s Stampede.
Data published from last July provided a statistical snapshot of supply-demand issues plaguing the cab system. Many vehicles struggle to find fares during the day but also struggle to keep pace with the rush of party-weary passengers on the weekend.
Halat’s plan, which goes before the Taxi and Limousine Advisort Committee on Friday, would see hundreds more vehicles on the street during certain periods, For example, just 963 cabs were working on average at 3 a.m. Saturday morning during the summertime data-tracking period.
But Jeff Garland, general manager for Associated Cab, said the new rules will turn away “quality drivers” from working the city.
“Forcing guys to work certain hours is not going to solve anything,” he said.
“It’s a supply problem . . . they need to add more cars.”
Halat said city council has been briefed on the plan but it doesn’t require their approval. He said he will discuss the matter with taxi-industry representatives but it would “take a pretty convincing argument” to change his mind on the changes.