New Brunswick

Saint John taxi advisory member calls new bylaw 'a big mess'

A long-time member of Saint John's cab community says the new taxi bylaw is creating a big mess and it's going to take some work to fix it.

City spokesperson says taxi advisory committee is taking another look at bylaw that took effect June 1

Some taxi companies are letting the meters run, but charging the old zone rate to passengers.

A long-time member of Saint John's cab community says the new taxi bylaw is creating a big mess and it's going to take some work to fix it.

Just one week into the new meter rate taking effect, many companies continue to charge customers the zone rate that has been in place for over a decade.

Paul Ram, who owns a small fleet of cabs and sits on the city's taxi advisory committee, said the new rules are well intentioned, but should have been tested more thoroughly.

"Certain fares are too high in my opinion," Ram told Information Morning Saint John on Thursday.

"When I raised that question in the committee meeting, they all said, 'No, raises haven't been given to the drivers for the last 12 years.' But instead of getting a raise, they definitely got rage from customers and the industry, so it's not working out."

Paul Ram is a long time supporter of taxi meters and is a member of the taxi advisory committee. He also owns a small fleet of cabs. He calls the current situation a mess. 12:52

Because there is no streamlining, passengers could pay a zone fare on the way to a destination and, using a different company on the way back, pay a meter fare. 

Ram said the new bylaw contains a glitch — while it stipulates fares are not to exceed the meter's total, there is nothing in the bylaw saying cab companies cannot charge less than the meter rate. 

"City council should have put in the bylaw clearly that taxi drivers are supposed to charge only meter rates. And they didn't do that," said Ram.

"Council should put ... binding laws for the drivers so they shouldn't break those laws. And if they do, they should be fined."

Committee taking another look

Sgt. Don Metcalf, the city's taxi inspector, said he will enforce the existence of meters in cabs and ensure the drivers have proper licences.

Paul Ram a long-time member of Saint John's cab community says the new taxi bylaw is creating a big mess and it's going to take some work to fix it. (Elke Semerad/CBC)
He said the matter of which fare is being charged will have to be sorted out by the city and the taxi advisory committee.

However, Metcalf said drivers have been warned that the Canada Revenue Agency has been informed about the situation.

A city spokesperson said the taxi advisory committee has been tasked to take another look at the bylaw.

Ram says it will have to remove the loopholes and take a more comparative approach to the zone system.

"The meters should be retested until they come close to the zone fare, and that fare should be calibrated in the meters," he said.

"Drivers … need a raise, there's no doubt, but they don't need such high raises that they feel customers are being gouged. I think if everybody agrees, all the taxi stand owners have to be on the same page."

Ram wants the taxi stand owners included in the committee's discussions.

Changing the rate would require an amendment to the bylaw, a process that, under normal circumstances, could take two to three months.

With files from Information Morning Saint John