LRT tracks force cabs out of prime locations in Kitchener, Waterloo

Taxi drivers are annoyed by changes to regional bylaws that make it illegal for cars to park or drive on LRT tracks, and aren't happy with the solutions proposed by the regional and city staff.

Changes highlight lack of taxi stands in the region, say drivers

Mike Sima, United Taxi president, and Peter Neufeld, Waterloo Taxi president, say changes to roadways in Kitchener and Waterloo has left them few places to pick up fares. It's now illegal to drive or park on Ion LRT tracks in Waterloo region. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Taxi drivers are annoyed by changes to regional bylaws that make it illegal for cars to park or drive on LRT tracks, and aren't happy with solutions proposed by the Region of Waterloo and city staff. 

The new bylaw was passed on Jan. 1 and is effective immediately, even though Ion service has not yet started running in Waterloo region.

It means taxis can no longer wait in front of the Charles Street Terminal transit hub. Instead, the existing taxi stand was moved behind the terminal, on Joseph Street, with wayfinding signs inside the terminal.

"It's very difficult for the passengers to find us," said Peter Neufeld, president of Waterloo Taxi, in an interview on CBC K-W's The Morning Edition. "There's a wall there. We're basically hiding behind the wall. It's not convenient at all."

"If they had any consideration at all for the consumer they would make this very convenient. When you step out you should be able to jump into your next form of transportation."

Taxis are no longer allowed to park outside of the Charles Street Terminal in downtown Kitchener. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

Chasing fares around the K-W

The cab companies said they asked to rent spaces in the small city lot adjacent to the terminal entrance, but were turned down, said Neufeld. "They didn't want us to take away from that limited number of parking spaces."

According to Mike Sima, president of United Taxi, the changes highlight an underlying problem: a lack of taxi stands in Kitchener and Waterloo.

"Basically we are driving around and when the customer calls, we are all chasing around trying to find the fare."

"Kitchener Waterloo is the only city in the universe where they don't have a taxi stand at the main bus terminal," said a frustrated Sima. 

This concept drawing from the Region of Waterloo's central station open house in May, 2016, shows what the hub at King and Victoria could look like at maximum density. The hub would be a connection point between the Ion LRT, GRT busses, GO busses and trains, VIA rail and will include taxi stands and 100 parking spaces. (Region of Waterloo)

Whether or not the situation will improve with the region's new transit hub remains to be seen, said Neufeld and Sima. 

The plans for the transit hub at King and Victoria streets in Kitchener do include a taxi stand, but how much space the taxis will be given isn't clear. 

"This is going to be a huge area where people are going to congregate and seek forms of transportation," Neufeld said. "They need to make room for us."

Make fire hydrants dual use

Neufeld said he'd like to see the region and cities adopt a bylaw similar to one on the books in Calgary since 2010.

There, cabs are allowed to wait beside fire hydrants until called to pick up a fare. 

"So they did double duty with that spot, because it's open all the time because of the fire hydrant, but they allow taxis to use them as a stand," Neufeld said. 

According to the bylaw, taxi drivers have to stay inside the vehicle, unless helping a customer get in or out, and be ready to move in case of an emergency.

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