A local taxi company faced opposition on Wednesday when it asked the province's Taxicab Board for more licenses for cabs that can accommodate wheelchairs – citing two-hour long waits for people with disabilities.
Dignity Taxi said it can’t keep up with demand for wheelchair-accessible cabs and asked Manitoba’s Taxicab Board for 10 more licenses.
The service has five wheelchair accessible vans right now, but needs more to keep up with requests for service, according to general manager Gary Jakeman.
“People are waiting sometimes two hours,” said Jakeman. “We just don’t have the capability, especially in the mornings and rush hours.”
He said it makes for a frustrating experience for people who need rides and for the company.
“We’re running into problems with people getting to their medical appointments or getting home,” he said. “If you or I tried to call for a taxi, we’d get one right away. If somebody in a wheelchair needs a taxi, they have to wait.”
But local taxi companies Duffy’s Taxi and Unicity Tax opposed Dignity Taxi’s application for more cabs.
Both Duffy’s and Unicity said they are meeting the demand for wheelchair accessible taxis.
Jakeman said that’s just not true, and the companies are worried that more cabs on the streets will drive down the value of a license and eat into their business.
He added people with disabilities deserve better service, and he wants to provide it.
“We have the ramp. We have easy access to get into it. The client rides up front, not in the back of a vehicle like a piece of cargo,” he said. “For people with disabilities, [it’s important] to get out into the community, to be able to do things!”
According to Graham Lane, the former head of the Public Utilities Board, Winnipeg has fewer cabs compared to other cities.
The city has seven taxis for every 10,000 citizens. Ottawa and Edmonton have double that amount, while Montreal has four times that amount.
The Taxicab Board said it will come to a decision on the matter in a couple of weeks.