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Bylaw would allow taxi companies to set own rates

City says they're not worried about price gouging, but acknowledged peak pricing will likely be put in place -- a fact confirmed by a local cab company manager.
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Diamond Taxi
Cab companies will be allowed to set their own rates if a proposed taxi bylaw is approved on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 by city council. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – The manager of Diamond Taxi says allowing cab companies in Thunder Bay to set their own rates should help his business succeed in the age of Uber.

Jay Sekhon on Thursday said the proposal, part of the city’s plan to update its taxi bylaw, would allow drivers to charge surge pricing during peak hours, which in turn might encourage more drivers to the industry and help cut down on wait times.

Ride share companies, which have recently dipped their tires into the Thunder Bay market, face far fewer restrictions and charge whatever rates they feel like charging, Sekhon said.

It’s time to level the playing field.

“It will help us address issues at night, when there are too many customers and not enough drivers and it will also help us attract more drivers to the business,” he said.

To those worried the taxi companies will simply use the new regulations, which are up for debate at Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Brian McKinnon said competition in the ride-for-hire business should ensure rates don’t sky rocket. 

McKinnon, who chairs the taxi bylaw committee, said it’s time the city got out of policing taxi rates.

“We can’t mandate what they’re going to charge and we shouldn’t,” McKinnon said. “That’s not our job. That’s their job. But people will soon get the message and say they’re not going to go to that company because they’re gouging us.”

He added the new bylaw regulations would be up for review, and if it looks like the cab companies are colluding to keep rates high, it’s something that can be revisited on an annual basis.

In addition from removing rate caps, the proposed bylaw would also require companies providing transportation services to have at least one accessible vehicle on the road at all times. It would also no longer require drivers to purchase a business licence and reduce the driver’s fee from $150 to $100 and the renewal fee from $100 to $75.

It would require Thunder Bay Police Service to provide security and records checks. The bylaw would cover both conventional cab companies and online transportation services such as Lyft or Uber, neither of which yet operates in Thunder Bay.

McKinnon said within two years the bylaw would also require all vehicles for hire to be equipped with GPS systems.

It’s not a perfect bylaw, Sekhon said, but it’s a good start.

“Because it’s taken so long, I’m just happy to see it go ahead. I don’t want to be the cause of any delays. There are a lot of little things that got thrown in at the last minute that I disagree with, but I’ll let it be,” he said.

If approved, the bylaw, which applies to all providers of vehicles for hire, including designated driver services, will likely come back before council on Dec. 18 for ratification.