Nova Scotia

Halifax taxi drivers push back against proposed changes

Sweeping changes to Halifax's taxi industry were endorsed by its transportation committee on Tuesday and sent to regional council for further debate.

Changes include increasing number of taxi licences to 1,600 from 1,000

Members of Halifax's transportation committee say they want to improve the taxi experience for passengers but the city's cab drivers aren't convinced the proposed changes will do that. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Sweeping changes to Halifax's taxi industry were endorsed Tuesday by the municipality's transportation committee and sent to regional council for further debate, but some drivers are pushing back against the proposed amendments.

Most members of the committee said they want to see improvements to the service.

"I cannot tell you how many times my residents have complained about not being able to get to Dartmouth," said Coun. Tony Mancini.

Councillors say they hope increasing the number of taxi owner licences to 1,600 from 1,000 will also grow the number of female drivers and the number of accessible cabs on the roads.

The proposed changes also include eliminating the municipality's three taxi zones: Halifax, Dartmouth and the county. Taxis can take passengers within their zone, or between zones. But they are prohibited from picking up fares within a zone for which the taxi is not licensed.

Coun. Steve Adams said he's skeptical eliminating zones will make a difference.

"Eliminating the zones won't stop drivers from refusing to go to Dartmouth," said Adams.

Cab drivers have their say

A number of taxi drivers, who were allowed to comment after the committee debated, said the changes could make the job more difficult for existing drivers while not providing any significant improvement for passengers.

"All you are going to do is put 600 more [cab drivers] sitting on Spring Garden Road while I'm trying to make a living," said Paul Boyd, a taxi driver for 20 years.

Terry Morier, an accessible taxi driver, said more competition means working longer hours.

"I'll get my money, but I'll have to stay out longer," he said. "But I'll need to look into what the labour rules are because this city needs to provide us with a safe working environment."

More calls for ride-sharing

One presenter talked about trying to set up a ride-sharing service by this summer.

Todd MacDonald said the municipality should not stand in the way since it would be safer and cheaper.

"Who are you to prevent us from having this? Allow us to use the internet, don't force us to use a phone book," MacDonald said.

But the controversy over ride-sharing is a fight for another day.

Municipal staff are recommending a separate report on how to handle companies such as Uber or Lyft, but councillors did express concern Tuesday.

"We can't put in more regulations for the taxi industry and then allow a free-for-all," said Coun. Sam Austin. "That is not fair at all."

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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