Council pushes for interim plan for displaced cabbies

Sudbury is reconsidering the way it licenses cabs, now that a single cab company has been chosen to offer ground service at the Greater Sudbury Airport.

Cab drivers who worked at the airport may soon be able to work throughout Sudbury under new zoning system

Sudbury is reconsidering the way it licenses cabs, now that a single cab company has been chosen to offer ground service at the Greater Sudbury Airport.

Beginning in July, Sudbury Cab will be the only company to serve the airport.

The city put forward a recommendation that the city's three taxi licence zones be reduced to one, so drivers can work in all areas of the city.

"We'll do consultation with the taxi industry, find out what they're doing, find out the use of vehicles and also talk to the public and find out what their service levels have been," said Darlene Barker, who is with the city's bylaw department.

Any licensing change made by the city would take up to a year to implement.

But city councillor Dave Kilgour feared some cabbies would go out of business in the meantime.

"I violently disagree with the fact that we can't come in with a new bylaw until August 2014, next year," he said during Monday night's council meeting. "That's ludicrous. We can't afford to wait that long."

City councillors asked staff to come up with an interim zoning system, that will help taxi drivers stay afloat until the new bylaw comes in.

Cab drivers speak out

Council also received an earful from about a dozen cab drivers.

Jeff Poulin warned council that if his taxis have to stay in the outlying areas, without airport fares, he won't be able to stay in business — and that would include the two TransCab routes he runs for Greater Sudbury Transit in rural areas.

"It's going to affect the city of Sudbury," he said. "Because if I can't afford to operate, then TransCab out of luck."

Poulin said he likes the city staff's suggestion of licensing taxis to cover all of Greater Sudbury, although some councillors worried it will mean fewer cabs in the outlying areas.

In the meantime, Sudbury Cab is reaching out to any cabbies who may be displaced by the solitary airport contract awarded to them.

About 11 cab drivers will no longer be able to pick-up travellers on airport property, now that airport service has been awarded to one company. But Zaidi said these drivers could still potentially keep working the airport.

"We have an open offer to everybody that whoever would like to come in and join hands with us," she said.

"But that would be on our terms and conditions because we are the one who have been granted the contract and we have promises and commitments with the airport."

Having one company service the airport means travellers will never have to wait long for a taxi, the company’s co-owner said.

"We would have two shuttles and four to five taxis and we will increase it from there and as soon as the work starts picking up we will add on more cars gradually," Komal Zaidi said.

Zaidi said taxi service will be less expensive now, with passengers no longer having to keep an eye the fare metre.

"People coming to the airport or going from the airport to town — or anywhere in town — they don't have to go by meter. They can go by flat rate," she said.

Those flat rates range from $30 to $45.

Sudbury Cab's contract with the airport lasts for five years.