New Brunswick

Cleanliness, wait times, pricing: Fredericton taxi survey reveals concerns

Wait times, cleanliness and the pricing of taxi rides are some of the concerns of Fredericton residents, the results of a city's taxi survey reveals.

More than 5,000 people responded to the survey in two weeks

The Fredericton taxi service survey received more than 5,000 responses in two weeks. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Wait times, cleanliness and pricing of taxi rides are just some of the concerns of Fredericton residents, the results of the city's taxi survey revealed.

In May, the city released a survey asking residents why they use taxis, what are they willing to pay for the services, which system of pricing they prefer and their thoughts on ride-sharing.

The survey received 5,400 responses in two weeks.

Coun. Kevin Darrah, the chair of city's transportation committee, presented the initial findings to Monday's council meeting, where some recommendations were made. 

Lack of drivers

Darrah said to combat wait times, the city has waived the application fee taxi drivers must pay each year to make it easier for companies to recruit and retain drivers.

"We've been paying that fee for our drivers and new drivers coming in for the last three, four years, we've been paying the fees," said George Youssef, the co-owner of Checker Cab.

Youssef's company has 80 to 100 drivers, so he said the extra money could go toward hiring more drivers.

Zones versus meters

Darrah said residents also showed concern about the zoning system and how pricing works, so councillors recommended using meters, similar to the system Moncton and Saint John have.

"They've got a digital meter so they've a tablet in each car. Then you can use an app called Air Cab and you can order up your cab online, on the phone, on the app, and you can see it get here and you know what the fare is going to be," he said.

Checker Cab co-owner George Youssef says lack of drivers could be the reason people complain about wait times in the city. (Jon Collicott/CBC)

But Youssef said if the city returns to a metered system, prices could go up.

"The ones that are going a few blocks might get a little bit of a discount, but the majority of people that are going [on] the longer trips that were sold at a cheaper rate, now will be a lot more expensive," he said.

Technology on its way in

Darrah said a lot of people who took the survey suggested ride-sharing services for the city.

"The market's not quite there for such a large company like Lyft [or] Uber but the market is there for a local startup," he said.

Youssef said Checker Cab is working on developing an app people can use to track their cab.

But he said apps like that can be expensive.

"If people want more technology and more things that they see outside the city in those big cities, they're going to have to pay big city prices," he said.

He said the app will be ready "soon," but couldn't give an exact date.

Cleanliness of cars

People also had a problem with drivers smoking in the vehicle, but Youssef said drivers aren't supposed to smoke in his cars.

He said he can't speak for every company, but he suggested the city increase the $170 fine for smoking in taxis. 

"We've been fighting as owners for a very long time, at least 20 years, trying to get those fines up," Youssef said, adding that he thinks fine should be increased to at least $500.

"I'm thinking that that would stop all smoking in those cars."

Changes to come

More survey results will be discussed in January and more recommendations will be proposed before changes can be made, Darrah said.

"All this stuff is going to be vetted through that working group that previously met and there will be a committee that will be set up," Darrah said. 

"So we'll have input from the cab companies, from the business community, hotels, and make sure that we get it right."

The city of Fredericton asked people for their wishes when it comes to cab service, and the results are back. Councillor Kevin Darrah says there's work to do.  15:02

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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