• Wed. Sep 21st, 2022

Taxi drivers hope council agrees to 10% meter increase to help tackle soaring costs

ByElla E. Kidwell

May 10, 2022

City staff are recommending council approve a 10 per cent increase in taxi meter fares in a report that will first be considered by the Community and Protective Services Committee on May 19.

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Ali Enad is stepping down as president of the local taxi union on a high, knowing that Ottawa City Council will soon be considering the first meter rate increase in 12 years.

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The nearly 700 members of Unifor Local 1688 are struggling with rising costs, given rising prices for gas, maintenance and insurance.

Over the past three years, “prices have gone crazy,” Enad said on Tuesday.

“We just can’t keep up.”

With Thursday’s union election and Enad not seeking re-election, he leaves the post with some satisfaction that the town hall understands the plight of taxi drivers.

City staff are recommending council approve a 10 per cent increase in taxi meter fares in a report that will first be considered by the Community and Protective Services Committee on May 19.

If the board agrees, the meter increase will take place on June 11.

A 15-kilometre taxi ride that costs $31.08 today would cost $34.88 after the hike takes effect.

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The council has not increased meter rates since an 8% increase was approved in 2010.

Enad said the union and Coventry Connections, Ottawa’s largest taxi company, sent a joint letter to the city earlier this year asking for a 10% raise. While the taxi meter increases are supposed to happen on October 1 under a regulation, taxi representatives have called for an increase to happen as soon as possible.

The regulations dictate how much taxi drivers charge the public, intended as a consumer protection measure.

But there have been major changes in the ride-ordering market over the past 12 years, with the city creating a rental vehicle bylaw in 2016.

There are different settlement rules for taxi drivers and “private transportation companies” (PTCs), such as Uber and Lyft. For example, the city does not set prices for PTCs.

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Many taxi drivers still believe that the rental vehicle regulations put them at a disadvantage in a highly competitive ride order market.

The taxi drivers also drew the city’s attention to their mandatory $5 million commercial liability insurance, as the policy is difficult to obtain in Canada.

The city is now proposing to reduce the insurance requirement to $2 million, which is consistent with regulations in other municipalities.

The city acknowledged that metered rates were lower than the taxi cost index, which is based on data collected by Statistics Canada. The city says the index suggests taxi operating costs have risen 20% over the past two years.

“Adjusting meter tariffs to reflect changes in cost conditions helps stabilize driver earnings, which in turn influences the quality of driver retained by the industry and the resulting quality of service for the passenger,” according to a report submitted to the board by chief regulatory officer Roger Chapman and made public on Tuesday.

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A request from the taxi industry not addressed by Chapman’s report is a $20 charge for rides beginning at the airport.

Enad said taxi drivers hadn’t asked for taxi meter increases in the past few years as they tried to rebuild their business after the PTCs arrived in Ottawa.

“We’re trying to compete with carpooling, so it wasn’t a good time to ask for a raise while we were trying to win back our customers,” Enad said.

Enad said the union hopes the city will open the rental vehicle bylaw for a full review during the next term of council.

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Customer taxi fares for a 15 kilometer journey

Sarnia: $48.79

Kingston: $43.04

Saskatchewan: $35.53

Ottawa (proposed): $34.88

Oakville: $33.10

Ottawa (current): $31.08

Hamilton: $30.75

Montreal: $30.60

Mississauga: $30.60

Toronto (proposed): $30.22

Toronto (current): $29.22

Windsor: $27.07

Source of rates: City of Ottawa

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