The owners of local taxi companies are asking the city to change its vehicle-for-hire bylaw, which they say will increase rider safety. 

Ravinder Singh Rupana and Sanjay Singhal, owners of Apple and Green Cabs, presented to city council on Nov. 27 at the regular council meeting.

“We represent the City of Grande Prairie when people are coming from out of town,” said Rupana.

He noted that for many visitors to the city, taxis may make their first and last impressions of the city as they come and go from the airport. 

The pair asked city council to put an age cap on vehicles for hire over 10 years old, and to require taxi companies maintain a minimum fleet of seven vehicles. They also asked that vehicles under five years old are subjected to an annual rather than twice yearly.

Council directed administration to refer the vehicle-for-hire bylaw to the appropriate standing committee and explore the option of a taxi commission.

Mayor Jackie Clayton said she’s hearing multiple opinions on the state of taxis in the city and believes that further discussions are needed.

“I understand the business of taxis is quite competitive and there are other people looking to get into the market,” she said.

Singhal noted that vehicles older than 10 years do not have the same safety features as newer vehicles.

Chief Public and Protective Services Officer Dan Lemieux said that a mechanical inspection completed by a certified mechanic is required twice annually, as well as a visual inspection to ensure cleanliness and that proper decals are installed, twice yearly.

“I think there’s a case that could be made that if you have a vehicle that’s five years or less, the mechanical inspection might be a stretch, but I would say that we need to continue inspecting these vehicles twice a year because even though it’s a brand new vehicle, we find all kinds of deficiencies every time we do an inspection,” he said.

The taxi owners also said they believe some taxi companies operating with one vehicle are also doing their own dispatch, which is a safety hazard if they are also running their vehicles simultaneously. 

They said the city bylaws were used to require vehicle-for-hire companies had a minimum of seven vehicles in a taxi company, which would ensure the need for a separate dispatcher.

The city’s bylaw has an ‘exclusive dispatch’ clause where a vehicle can be dispatched and driven exclusively by the person applying for the vehicle permit. 

Rupana told the News that other considerations should also be made for the safety of passengers, including cameras inside and outside of taxis.

Lemieux noted when the city issues a chauffeur’s license to taxi drivers, a criminal record check is required, along with a driver’s abstract.

Coun. Gladys Blackmore suggested that the city look into creating a taxi commission.

“That’s probably the most significant difference between Grande Prairie and the majority of large cities across the province is that we do not have a taxi commission,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of reasons not to have a taxi commission, but I think periodically it needs to be looked at as whether or not it’s time to move up into that management structure.”

Coun. Dylan Bressey said he was opposed to creating one, saying he doesn’t believe now is the time to create it as the city has had trouble filling existing boards and committees.

“I’ve got no interest in adding another one until I’m really confident that we’ve actually got enough people in our community and a good recruiting process that we can fill our existing ones.”

Council voted to investigate the opportunities of a taxi commission in the city. 

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 07, 2023 at 09:43

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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