The chair of Calgary's transportation committee says unlicensed cabs could be part of the solution to the city's taxi shortage.

Shane Keating, councillor for Ward 12 and chair of the city's transportation committee, says so-called "gypsy cabs" are currently unsafe because the condition of the vehicles is unknown and there is no way to guarantee passenger safety. 

Keating spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

  • Hear the full interview by clicking the "Listen" button to the left.

He says the city should move to regulate freelance cabs to help ease the shortage of taxis that Calgary experienced over the holiday period.

Keating is proposing the city create temporary taxis by allowing the owners of taxi licences to designate an extra vehicle as a taxi for a specified period of time.

"They would deputize somebody and their vehicle, so you could double the number of taxis in one evening."

Keating says such a system would function only during periods of high demand, such as New Year'e Eve.

Debate swirls over solving shortage

According to reports, many people in Calgary used the services of unregulated and unlicensed cabs on New Year's Eve.

Keating rejects suggestions that the city simply sell more taxi licences, pointing out that that the city has already added 100 new licences, raising the number to more than 1,500 at present.

"I believe you have to regulate to some degree, to make sure the public is safe and to make sure there aren't too many taxis and that each one is making enough money to survive," he said.

However, Keating's idea is getting a thumbs down from taxi companies.  

Jeff Garland, the general manager of Associated Taxi, says drivers would be unlikely to go through the licensing process to operate only a few nights a year.

Instead, Garland says a better way to put more cabs on the road at peak times would be to remove the flat rate system for limousines and luxury sedans and allow them to charge customers the same rates as taxis.