Relieving the city's police board of responsibility for taxi issues is "overdue."
Coun. Brian McKinnon is the chair of a committee addressing taxi issues in the city, and said Tuesday morning during a Thunder Bay Police Service Board meeting at city hall that it is time for an overhaul in how the transportation companies are policed.
The first step Coun. McKinnon would like to see taken is a shift of responsibility over taxi regulations from the police board to the city’s by-law enforcement department.
“This comes from the taxi companies as well," he said. "I think they’re happy with the fact we’re addressing with some of the issues.”
McKinnon, who is also a member of the police service board, said the current system is not a drain on police resources.
Shifting responsiblity for taxis away from police boards isn't unheard of. Several communities across Ontario have already transferred those kinds of responsibilities to municipal governments.
City by-law manager Ron Bourret said it’s clear in his mind that there is room for improvement in terms of taxi service.
“Right now, no. They do not,” he said, responding to the question of whether cab companies provide the best service possible to city residents.
“I’m not putting any blame on the cab companies but we have to find a way as administration that if this comes our way that we study ways to effectively and efficiently use those.”
He identified creating one dispatch service to direct all three of the city’s taxi companies and the implementation of GPS tracking as two possible solutions to enhance quality.
Having regulations enforced by the city’s by-law enforcement gives the potential for the city to provide some direction to the companies.
“If we regulate them under the Municipal Act we can tell them where we want cabs at a certain time,” Bourret said.
“Taxi service is a community service. It’s a private business, but it’s a community service. Taxi companies should be included into our transportation review and study for the city.”
One major point of caution for Bourret is ensuring extra resources are allocated to his department if the change does take place. He said his staff of five licensing and enforcement officers are currently overworked, especially with the demands of winter.
He would look at changing the by-law to fit within the capabilities of the department, and acknowledged the switch would likely be inevitable..
“The by-law, the way it’s written now under the police service board, needs to be changed. It’s outdated and when myself and the legal department get a hold of it and we’ll have to look at the resources we have,” Bourret said.
The committee will meet again in early February with a report from the police service board on whether they recommend the transfer. If the board is in favour of the switch, a report would be prepared for city council early in the spring.