Tbnewswatch Local News
Tuesday June 30 2015
3:43 PM EDT
2014-02-04 at 13:57

Smoother service

The city
Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
The city's taxi companies are looking to make it easier to hire new drivers, meaning more cabs will be on the road rather than in parking lots.
By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

Bureaucratic red tape when hiring drivers makes up just one of many speed bumps preventing taxicabs in this city from offering smoother services.

Treated as both employees and independent contractors, prospective drivers are forced to obtain an individual business licence before they can work. Those drivers are also subject to street knowledge tests with obscure locations that few longtime residents would know of. 

Those requirements are what Jay Sekhon of Diamond-Lacey calls the biggest hurdles to bring new drivers aboard. But they aren't the only ones.

On Tuesday, cab company officials met with a Thunder Bay Police Service board sub-committee, which has been tasked with addressing some of the city's taxi service shortfalls.

The meeting was the sub-committee's fourth, but only the first time members were able to gather input from people within the industry.

"I admit, I don’t know about how taxi companies run and I got a lot of information as did the other members of the committee,” said sub-committee chair Coun. Brian McKinnon, who also called the meeting and the industry perspective "eye-opening."

Members of the three companies present, Diamond-Lacey, Roach’s and Superior Accessible Taxi were supportive of the sub-committee's efforts, and said previously they felt like nobody was listening to their issues.

While the bureaucracy that goes into hiring a new driver was the industry's biggest gripe, it was certainly not the only problem tabled. 

A habit of customers calling multiple companies only to take the first arriving cab is a major cause of availability issues. But the cab companies don't believe a single dispatch system would be the right fix.

While it would seemingly solve one of the biggest service strain, cab officials argued it would not be ideal for their businesses.

Last call at bars and pubs also leads to service issues. Cab company officials suggested of staggering closing times for different establishments and having buses run extended hours during busier nights.

Any significant changes to the system would take time, but McKinnon, who is a member of the police services board, is optimistic some improvements can be made quickly.

“I think some of those issues can be dealt with fairly quickly because it’s administrative stuff. It’s not so much by-law,” he said specifically of licenses and testing.

“If you eliminate two major stumbling blocks that would get more cabs on the road.”
The police services board is looking at flipping responsibility of overseeing the city’s taxi industry to the by-law enforcement department.

City general manager of development services Mark Smith and city by-law manager Ron Bourret explained at the meeting what would happen if the city took over enforcement.

Smith said if the police services board votes to transfer the responsibility to the city the existing by-law would have to be substantially changed with a complete deconstruction of each section.

A report will be presented to the police services board at their next meeting on Feb. 18 recommending the transfer of the by-law enforcement responsibility.

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tbaycabbie says:
So there are times when people have to wait for cabs for various reasons. I have touched on some. There are more but I hope you can see some of the reasons you can't get a cab as quick as you like. On a Friday and Saturday night there are maybe 50 or so on the road. Less during the slower days. If more people wanted to be a cab driver there would be more. You can expect to make minimum wage not much more. You have to put up with a lot of bs. Be willing to be assalted occasionaly. Be willing to be robbed occasionally. There are a lot of nice people in Thunder Bay and I will continue to get you, your mother, father, sons and daughters etc. safely to their destination. I am going to comment on other posts now. Have a safe ride home. Don't drink and drive........ever.
2/9/2014 5:16:10 AM
tbaycabbie says:
Another kind of call are ghost calls where the person claims they never called. We drive there wait another 3 to 5 mins, go knock and get the blank stare. Personally I don't like knocking or ringing a doorbell later at night if the house is in total darkness. I don't like waking people up because someone is playing idiot. So off we go to another location. This time someone staggers over and gets in the car and can hardly speak. This is when I ask for money up front. After several minutes of fumbling around for cash it's determined that no cash is to be found and they must exit. After many buts, but my auntie will pay, but I have a brother who will pay when I get there, but, but, but. All this time has been wasted and other people wait. Now in the middle of all this madness planes have landed. Cars are being tied up and people are waiting at the airport. We get there as fast as we can. A lot of trips go across town and those cars will not get back. We dont have 7000 cabs like Toronto.
2/9/2014 4:56:38 AM
tbaycabbie says:
So now we have a diff lind of customer for the next trip. Lots of this happening in town to. The person wants to go to a dealer, a seller. I think you know what I mean. We drive around to various houses and locations as directed and wait and wait till the deal is done. This kind of trip ties up cabs for anywhere between 15 mins and half hour. Another type of trip which adds to wait times are what I call inconsiderate customers. You called for a cab 10 mins ago. We drove there in 5 mins and when we get there your not ready to leave. You wave (sometimes) and we wait. You send someone out saying we'll be right out. We wait. 3 people come out and get into the cab and say we are just waiting for one more. We wait. Two in the cab run back into the house to see what is going on. We wait. Someone comes back out to the cab and says we need a van now. omg another 20 minute wait for nothing for the driver and other waiting customers. Off to the next call and upon arrival we are told "they left".
2/9/2014 4:34:18 AM
tbaycabbie says:
Well at least you got your cab. Now what happens is we take you home. Or do we. No, lets stop at a convenience store and then for a burger. So now your quick trip home turns into a 20min to a half hour ride. The driver is happy he has a fare but the other 200 people waiting downtown waving their arms at passing cabs don't know what other cabs are doing. By the way our roof lights don't turn off when we have a fare. They are always on. The only time they are off is when the light bulbs are burnt out. So when you see a cab passing you going to his next dispatched trip and his lights are on it's nothing personal. Well your home and now we det dispatched to another location. This time the customer has come out of another bar and is looking for a "special" person. Off we go up and down side streets, one side of town to another. Sometimes they see someone they like sometimes not. However that cab has been tied up for more than a half hour sometimes longer. This happens quite often at night.
2/9/2014 4:14:09 AM
tbaycabbie says:
On night shift you are scheduled to work 5 days a week. 3-10s (5pm to 3am) and 2-13s (6pm to 7am). You get a 20 min lunch break if you want it. Many eat on the go. So in the two week pay period you put in 112 hrs or so on the road. There is a lot of talk about long wait times during busy times like when the bars close. Ok here is what happens when you call. The dispatch phones (two) have about 10 buttons lighting up with incoming calls. Each call is answered and the address and other info you give is written down in the order it is received. This info is then given to a driver by the dispatcher when they have cleared their trip. So when you have 3, 4 or 5 people in your group and you all call a cab thinking you will get one faster you won't. Between each of your calls you placed there are 20 or more other calls and each one is dispatched in order. So you got lucky and got a cab quick but 4 other cabs still have to go to that location maybe taking 10 mins to get there making others wait
2/9/2014 3:53:50 AM
AndersonSilvasLeg says:
Might be wise to start with providing better protection for the drivers instead of who should deal with what.

Or if the better protection can come as a direct result of who will deal with what, I would love to see that as well.

When will we stop sacrificing personal safety just to cut a few costs?
2/5/2014 12:25:22 PM
stryker-65 says:
As a former cab driver, I understand the frustration all around. The City is involved to ensure public safety through regulation of vehicle safety, driver permitting, and helping to set the rates to ensure fairness. The driver works on commission, so more cars on the road cuts into his/her take home pay. Couple that with rude, abusive, drunk customers, and you have real issues.
For those that complain about long waits at 3am, maybe try skipping last call and leaving earlier!
2/5/2014 9:33:43 AM
jjf11 says:
We should take a page out of any larger cities book when it comes to the taxi issue. Larger cities require a name and most times a telephone number when booking a car. In our town when the car arrives it's the first person to run to the cab who gets the ride home. Leaving others to wait until 3,4 or even 5 a.m. (experience talking). This would definitely alleviate some of the multiple calls to different companies if you actually got the ride that was promised in 15 minutes by the dispatcher. It may not fix everything but it is a place to start.
2/5/2014 8:51:21 AM
S Duncan says:
I wonder if it would be feasible for dispatchers to prioritize their cabs if the caller provided credit card and a minimum charge?

If you called, give them a card number and reserved the cab for a charge of $15 or so, that would apply to your final fare, maybe this would help the problem of taking the first cab that arrives?

Obviously it might be a bit cumbersome for a dispatcher to do all that, but it wouldn't take much longer than a typical debit card transaction in line at wal mart.

I don't know if this would work and perhaps its already being used? The cab companys would best know how to handle that situation.

PS you guys should just wipe away skyhighs comment and my replies to him, its just cluttering up an otherwise nice discussion amongst everyone.
2/5/2014 10:03:08 AM
SomeGuy says:
If there was a push to integrate more technology in cabs you could overcome some of these limitations.

I know Uber and other services in the states are embracing smart phones. You request a cab right from your phone and you even pay through it the phone.

Also if it was opened up to more competition other services could start such as private cars, shuttles etc...
2/5/2014 1:22:27 PM
Cabbie1957 says:
Hi, I've been a cabbie for some time now and some of the issues are correct like long wait times and fairly high rates but if you are gonna talk about things that need to be looked at first to change ... How about ensuring OUR safety???? We have been robbed, injured, threatened, fights broken out in our vehicles, windows smashed out of vehicles etc . Etc.
Now the city is saying we are a community service like the city buses yet they get paid more have benefits and also have better protection than us can drivers and they only drive the public around until what 1am at the latest??
As far as I'm concerned if the city wants to take over the taxi companies then that would meen I then work for the city not a privatized company anymore and I would then expect to be paid like a city worker and get benefits like a city worker as well.
The main thing is let's start by looking at the safety issues for the drivers FIRST!!
2/5/2014 8:08:29 AM
MasterDebater says:
This city really needs some new direction when it comes to transit and taxi plans. I am not sure how the fare is structured here, but I don't understand why a ride from Arthur and Edward to the airport costs over 15 bucks when I could walk the distance in 30 min. This is the only city where I absolutely refuse to tip a cab driver, only because I feel the fare is outrageously high. Sorry drivers!
2/5/2014 1:41:27 AM
SomeGuy says:
Allow the market to be competitive and set their own prices.

The market should balance it's self out with new businesses opening, but ensure that the cab companies do not engage in price fixing and ensure cabs are safe and the drivers are safe also.
2/4/2014 10:52:25 PM
jonthunder says:
Please do NOT give taxi oversight to city by-law enforcement; it cannot handle dogs let alone taxis, drunks, etc.
2/4/2014 8:55:35 PM
kurt says:
i dont know how cab companies work or anything - but can you not privatize it - to the point where - any one can become a car service - ? is that how they work in larger citys ? individuals own their own vehicles - and drive you where you gotta go - say from an airport ? can that not be done in thunder bay ?
2/4/2014 6:58:15 PM
S Duncan says:
That's how they would work if the city kept its money grubbing fingers out of it.

They want to control things so they can hire more people to stack underneath them. It makes them feel important if they can push themselves up an imaginary ladder.

Just look, how many of these committees, groups, task forces, etc.. ever get smaller?

every government office gets bigger through self promotion and self importance.

This is no different. What we have is another ploy for the municipal government to get bigger so they can hire a taxi cab committee and the bylaw office can expand even more.
2/4/2014 9:55:47 PM
Synical says:
Here's the basis of how it works.

The city allows only a certain number of passenger tickets. The cab companies purchased those tickets. So let's say Roach's bought 40, Diamond bought 40 and Superior bought 10 out of 90 available tickets. That is the maximum those companies can have on the road, because that is the maximum amount of tickets they have been allowed to purchase.

Other companies have tried to open, BUT, there are no more tickets available. The city is the reason there are only a limited number of cabs on the road, and no other competing businesses.

Also, for those complaining about wait times; when people call each company and take the one that arrives first, the other two cabs have just wasted time waiting on no one, so whoever is waiting for a cab has to wait longer for one of those cars to show up. No shows and multiple calls are the biggest reasons for longer waits. Again, not the company's fault. Blame this one the riders.
2/5/2014 12:19:25 AM
SteveZ8420 says:
Something needs to change. Too many times I have been in need of a ride when the pubs close, and its over an hour wait for a cab and the city buses aren't running that late. Its bad enough in the summer when I have to walk an hour to get home but in the winter it becomes a safety concern and not just for me. I'm happy to see all the improvements being planned for the city and this is one that should not be over looked.
2/4/2014 6:07:48 PM
Spartan says:
I totally agree Duncan. The city has a hard enough time running its own affairs, now they want to mess up the taxi industry.
Let the people that do the job decide how it should be done. If taxi companies start charging too much, showing up late or not at all, people will start weeding them out for more reliable cabs.
2/4/2014 5:35:00 PM
S Duncan says:
It seems to me the cab business would be much better for everybody if the city kept their noses out of it.

Because they control licences they control how many people can compete for their business. If business was left to their own devices, they would put extra cabs on when they need them and take them off when they don't.

Who knows the cab business better? Some bureaucrat with a high paid city job, or the actual people that do it?

When city hall, or any government gets involved in your business you better look out because nothing good will become of it.
2/4/2014 2:16:49 PM
sky high says:
Easy now...you proved that you're no entrepreneur when you said that Sears is on the ropes because they no longer have a candy store. Suppose you think cab companies would do better if the vehicles still had Flintstone's brakes? Just saying, you don't know much about business
2/4/2014 5:53:37 PM
S Duncan says:
You proved you cannot read because I never said anything remotely like that. Go back, read what I actually wrote.

I never said that Sears was hurting because the candy counter closed. I said that kids today don't know what they missed when the candy counter closed.

Go read it, then realize how stupid you look.

The rest of us already know.

and then when youre done that, come back here and talk about the cab business like the rest of us are trying to do.

I knew more about business 25 years ago than you do today and you will in another 25 years.
2/4/2014 9:51:16 PM
sky high says:
Here's the point you made Repunzel:

Sears used to be the exact opposite of what you describe.

It seems they decided to pursue the Wal-Mart cheaper is better policy.

I remember the candy counter at sears. They abandoned all that. I loved Sears as they used to be, but they aint what they used to be.

Duncan...don't be pretending you know an iota about business when all you wish for is a mom and pop candy store. As for cabs, I use them around Christmas or last call on a weekend, and sometimes they are delayed a bit. But I don't pretend to have all the answers like our charlatan friend Duncan. Just saying, you'd like us to believe you're a Harvard Business grad but....I'll stop here.
2/4/2014 11:06:14 PM
S Duncan says:
Nice try.

Go read it. Keep in mind this is only part of it.

"It seems they decided to pursue the Wal-Mart cheaper is better policy. (Hey it works for Walmart ) but then I think Sears found itself competing in a flooded market.

I remember the candy counter at sears, the restaurant, the sporting goods with fishing tackle and outboard motors, and the automotive service department, all of which you as a customer were treated almost like royalty.

They abandoned all that and then the best thing they had going, went cheap too. That's the craftsman line of tools. The service faltered there and before you know it so did the stock."

Does it say anywhere that Sears is on the ropes because they closed the candy counter?

Learn to read, it will help you immensely.

Are we going to talk about cabs and the issues pertaining to Thunder Bay, or are you just going to continue crying on all the comments you make?
2/4/2014 11:53:16 PM
S Duncan says:
and later in the thread some of us enjoyed reminiscing about it.

heres what I typed.

and yes, those kids today that never experienced the candy counter sure missed out! I can still picture the little paper bag with chocolate rosebuds or macaroons in it. Not to mention the candy sticks.

So yet again, learn to read and at some point you may be able to enjoy the rewards of fruitful discussion.

Every post in this thread was just fine til you started beaking off again.

but that's what you get with children like you.
2/4/2014 11:57:15 PM
tbaycabbie says:
When we need more for the most part is a Fri and Sat night between 11pm and 3am and perhaps during special events eg: Canada Day Blues Fest. 99% are on the road during these times. The rest of the week drivers are scheduled with their regular days off.
2/9/2014 5:27:11 AM
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