A recommendation expected from city administration could bring some relief down the road for those who find it difficult to catch a cab in Calgary.

The city refused to comment Tuesday on how many more taxi plates it would recommend to the Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee (TLAC), but there were reports it could be around 100.

An official with the city sent an email to CBC News Wednesday saying the recommended number will be based on a guideline population formula, which adds up to roughly 58 additional taxis.

Taxi plate history

1986: Taxi plates capped at 1,311, but it was estimated that only 800 to 900 taxi plates were being used at the time.

1998: All plates finally issued as demand met with the cap.

2006: City council approves 100 accessible taxi plate licences.

2012: Another 55 accessible taxi plates approved for peak hours on Friday and Saturday nights.

City administration's recommendation follows years of complaints about long waits during peak hours in the cold and at night.

The number of cabs in Calgary hasn't changed much over the decades. The city hit the brakes in 1986, capping the total at 1,311 taxi plates. Today there are 1,466 cabs, despite the population nearly doubling.

But city analyst Marcia Andreychuk says many cabs are "double-shifted," meaning there is a driver during the day and another at night.

Rajiv Kapil, the head of the Calgary Cab Drivers Association, says the recommendation for more taxi plates is a good start but may not be enough.

"It means the quality of service will improve, but to meet with the demand we need at least 300 more cabs," he said.

Alderman raises concerns

Ald. Ray Jones isn't convinced that allowing more cabs onto Calgary streets would allow drivers to still earn a living.

"Not everybody's going to be happy," he said. "There's those that want us to open up the system totally. I don't think that would solve the problems. I think that would create problems for people because no one would make any money at it."

The city's report is expected to be made public early next week, but it could be weeks before it gets a vote from council. TLAC will review the recommendations at a meeting Aug. 19 before presenting a proposal to city council.

TLAC has also been tracking daily data on cab services in the city since April 1, which will also be included in its proposal.

Jones says despite his concerns he will support the recommendation presented to council.

"It was done in conjunction with negotiating with the stakeholders, which is the industry," he said. 

"I think they came to a good decision between them and I think that's exactly what council wanted was the industry and the stakeholders to get together and do what's best for the city." 

Taxi pilot project

The city also started a pilot project Tuesday on Stephen Avenue to help better manage access for taxis and emergency response vehicles.

Public parking on the 200 and 300 blocks of the popular downtown street will be replaced with expanded taxi and no-stopping zones from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week.

The pilot project is to address concerns raised by Calgary police and firefighters that there is not enough emergency access on the street at night.

"This pilot project should allow the street to be cleared quickly when emergency vehicles require access," said project manager Graham Gerylo. 

"Also, the expanded taxi zones should improve safety and access to taxis for Stephen Avenue patrons since taxis will now be able to load and unload passengers in the former parking space."  

The Calgary Downtown Association has also launched a new interactive parking map to help people find short-term and on-street parking in downtown. 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee (TLAC) would recommend more taxi plates to city hall Monday. City officials say the recommendation will actually be released in a report from city administration next week. TLAC will then review the report before making a proposal to city council.
    Aug 07, 2013 3:29 AM MT