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.