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Volunteer group Voters for Taxis are advocating that the city abandon the current license cap.
the Gauntlet

City hall seeks to improve taxi service

Bylaw change aims to improve 'consumer protection, public safety'

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Disgruntled taxi users may finally get some relief after years of strained cab service. The City of Calgary is considering altering taxi regulations in an effort to "ensure public safety, service quality and protection for customers and service providers."

However, some feel the bylaw changes proposed by Livery Transport Services do not include the level of public input necessary.

Non-profit organization Voters for Taxis is among those that think the public needs a bigger voice in the bylaw reform. The organization advocates "an open dialogue about the current system, why it isn't working, and what options are available to design a better system that will serve all stakeholders, including the folks that order, ride in and pay for cabs, not just the taxi industry," said spokesperson Sandy Jenkins.

Jenkins stressed that Calgarians deserve a system where getting a cab is easier, which will hopefully reduce drunk driving resulting from the unavailability of taxis.

"In past bylaw reviews, city hall has put a premium on industrial peace amongst the various licensees, at the expense of consumer protection and public safety," said Jenkins. "If this bylaw is going to be about service quantity and quality, then taxi customers need to let city hall know this is an important issue."

Calgary Development & Building Approvals communications advisor Jennifer Green was adamant that the current structure is working and that slight alterations would provide a higher standard of service.

"The Livery Transport Bylaw is currently under review, it will go to council in November '09 with recommendations [from the industry and the public]," said Green. "The bylaw review is not intended to overhaul the bylaw [or change it from a closed to an open system], but rather to fine-tune the current council supported closed system, and that's what administration is bringing forward."

Despite recent falling demand for cabs, there still does not appear to be enough supply to meet the city's needs, said Jenkins.

"Unfortunately, the proposed bylaw changes don't go anywhere near the supply-side issue," he said. "We are proposing to abandon the rigid cap on taxi plates in Calgary."

There have been few changes to the license cap, now at 1,411, since 1986, when the population was just over 600,000. This has drastically limited the number of cabs available at any time.

"The public should have access to safe, efficient, reliable taxi service," said Ward 7 alderman Druh Farrell. "If you've got a healthy transportation system, it works hand-in-hand with a robust, healthy taxi system."

As part of an effort to maintain that healthy system, the Taxi Limousine Advisory Committee, a city council appointed advisory committee recommending changes to the bylaw, is seeking public input.

The committee posted a survey on the city's website in order to better understand the public's "views based upon their personal experience with the taxi and limousine industry so [they] can better address them through recommended changes to city council as they relate to and impact the Livery Transport Bylaw," said committee chair Stephanie Ho Lem.

In addition to the survey, found at calgary.ca/taxisurvey, there will also be a public meeting Thursday to gather further input.

"The survey results and public submissions will be considered and incorporated into a report to city council that is tentatively scheduled to go to the Standing Policy Committee on Land Use, Planning & Transportation on Nov. 18, 2009," according to a city news release.

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