Calgary cab rates could climb by 15 per cent if a recommendation is approved at an upcoming city committee meeting.
The regulated taxi meter rate would increase by $.60 for the first 120 metres based on the recommendations. It would also increase $.03 for each additional 120 metres thereafter.
The matter will come to this Wednesday’s Community Development Committee. The last taxi meter rate increase was in 2014, according to the city.
Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal held a taxi and livery open house in late March, and he heard from drivers that costs were increasing. Fuel prices, insurance rates and maintenance were climbing, and it has been eight years since they’ve had a rate increase.
Plus, they’re dealing with the same cost of living increases as all Calgarians, the city’s engagement report read.
Dhaliwal said he’s happy to see the recommended increase.
“I think it’s a good increase given that some were asking for between five and 15 per cent,” he said.
In March, the city opened up engagement to more than 5,000 industry stakeholders. It included a survey that received 496 completed responses and 730 partial responses.
On the question about increasing the regulated meter rate, 88 per cent said yes.
“Our gas expenses is almost 50% up now. The brokers (have) increased the rent. It is very hard to survive as a taxi driver,” read one of the verbatim quotes from the What We Heard Report.
Another wrote: “City of Calgary needs to increase the initial meter start price to $5 so at least driver can cover the gas expenses which are double than previous year now a days.” [sic]
Covid-19, Continued competition from carshare, transpo network companies
According to the city’s most recent mobility data, taxi and rideshare trips have recovered, but are still below 2019 levels.
Feedback received during the engagement suggested that business costs are escalating while the customer base and number of drivers continue to be suppressed.
Dhaliwal said there’s still a sentiment that Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber have the playing field tilted in their favour with fewer restrictions and more flexibility than city cab drivers.
“(TNCs) don’t have that kind of regulatory regime imposed upon them like the taxi industry does,” Dhaliwal said.
“Taxi drivers feel disproportionally marginalized when it comes to the industry because of these restrictions.”
Dhaliwal said the requirement for onboard cameras, inspections, and safety protocols like not driving on spare tires, don’t apply to TNCs.
The city did change the rules, allowing for telephone dispatch and hailed cabs to charge a lower rate than the maximum metre rate. This allowed for more competition. Taxi trips booked through smartphone apps have no regulated metre rate, like TNCs, according to the city.
Further review of the taxi fare system
Feedback provided to the city suggested that the meter rate be reviewed and adjusted every couple of years.
The city admin report suggests they’re looking at eliminating the regulated metre rate altogether. That would bring them in line with limousine services and TNCs.
Perhaps they could also look at indexing based on the current cost of living, Dhaliwal said. Or they could look at the drop fee at the airport, he said.
“We need to, moving forward, come up with some sort of a formula where there’s an automatic increase or decrease given the economic environment,” he said.