Suburban taxis seek late-night rights downtown

Passengers wait for ruling on rival cab licence proposals for weekend service from Vancouver entertainment district

An ongoing spat between Vancouver and suburban taxi companies is continuing over which group will get to provide late night service on weekends from downtown.

Suburban residents who enjoy the night life of downtown Vancouver and then find it nearly impossible to catch a cab back home are still waiting for a solution despite years of complaining about the issue.

B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said the 16 suburban taxi companies in Metro Vancouver he represents have tabled a viable proposal to ease the late-night shortage of cabs authorized to take passengers from downtown to outlying cities.

But Kang says B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board has yet to rule on their plan, unveiled last July, because a rival group of Vancouver taxi companies have since embarked on their own study of whether additional cab licences are viable.

He calls it a delaying tactic aimed at keeping suburban cabs out of downtown Vancouver.

The B.C. Taxi Association proposal would not give outlying cabbies carte blanche to raid Vancouver.

Instead, Kang said, only 15 per cent of existing cab licences would be permitted to go downtown, and only on Friday nights, Saturday nights or special event nights, between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“Everybody in the public knows there’s a definite need at those times,” Kang said.

He said the proposal would put more cabs downtown that can take passengers home to the suburbs late at night, adding Vancouver Police should appreciate the help getting out-of-town revelers off the streets.

The Vancouver firms are asking for 99 additional taxi licences for weekends and special events, but Kang said it’s not clear how that will ease the late-night shortage of cabs bound for the suburbs  if those cabbies continue to refuse to take passengers outside Vancouver.

“We are not going after their regular business,” Kang said. “We’re only after the times they cannot serve the general public for a safe ride home.”

Existing rules ban cabbies from picking passengers up from cities they’re not authorized to serve, although those regulations were dropped during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Passengers have complained about cab service for years and even then-transportation minister Kevin Falcon once reported being unable to get a cab to take him back to his Cloverdale constituency office.

A Taxi Bill of Rights created in 2008 promised passengers the right to be taken wherever they wish – provided they put up a deposit if requested – and drivers who refuse can be ticketed.

But Kang said he believes it has not stopped many Vancouver cabbies from refusing fares to cities like Surrey and Langley because they don’t want to deadhead back empty.

Demand for taxis has also grown since B.C. imposed much tougher roadside penalties for drinking drivers in the fall of 2010.

The B.C. Taxi Association companies seeking late-night Vancouver rights include ones that serve communities as distant as the North Shore, White Rock, Langley and Port Coquitlam – all areas of Metro Vancouver except Maple Ridge.

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