Halifax taxi review clashes with staff report on security cameras in cabs
City staff report rejects security camera recommendation, suggests GPS instead
A review of Halifax's taxi industry is calling for more cabs to operate in the area and mandatory installation of security cameras in all taxis.
The review, by Hara Associates Inc. of Ottawa, recommends the requirement for the cameras be phased in over a 12-month period.
The consultants propose the municipality add an additional 10 cents to the fixed charge on taxi meters at the beginning of the 12-month period to help pay for the cameras, which can cost as much as $1,200 each.
"Additional benefits will be fewer assaults on drivers and a more accurate record supporting investigation of passenger complaints," the review notes.
However, a municipal staff report rejects that recommendation.
"A number of municipalities have removed the requirement for cameras in the last few years. Lack of memory storage and access to the files during an investigation were cited as significant issues as well as the possibility of cameras not working or being altered so they cannot work," the staff report says.
If Uber vehicles are permitted to operate in the municipality with no requirement for cameras, then it would result in an uneven playing field, the report also notes.
Instead, staff recommends all taxis have global positioning systems, or GPS, installed.
Taxi zones could be scrapped
Right now there are 1,000 taxi owner licences in the municipality, which is divided into three zones. There are currently 610 taxis in the Halifax zone, 200 in Dartmouth, and 190 in 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.
The review recommends the elimination of the zones as well as adding an additional 600 owner licences. There are 500 requests on a waiting list for owner licences.
Dave Buffett, president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association, said he has concerns about the extra 600 licences.
"You will not see 600 additional taxis on the streets of Halifax," he said.
Drivers who are renting roof lights from licence owners now will simply get their own licences, he said, and owners who are no longer driving will just retire.
However, adding more licences could help increase the number of female drivers in the system. There are currently 13 women who have been waiting for five years to get an owner licence.
More driver training recommended
The Hara Associates review, which took more than a year to complete, also recommends more training for drivers including winter driving skills, meeting a federal English language standard, as well as gender and cultural sensitivity training — a recommendation Buffett supports.
The review says drivers with a major criminal conviction should be prohibited from getting a licence for 10 years. All drivers should also undergo a check through a national child abuse registry.
The low numbers of accessible taxis operating in the municipality was addressed in the report.
It recommends that Mayor Mike Savage request amendments to Halifax's charter to allow the city to provide business grants for the purchase and conversion of accessible taxis and to subsidize the cost per trip for operators.
An advocate for people with mobility issues said the idea for taxi accessibility grants is a step in the right direction.
"I like the direction this report is taking on accessible taxis," said Gerry Post.
"But would suggest a greater integration of taxis with the Access-a-Bus service."
Post presented his ideas on a "Para Taxi" service to Halifax's Transportation Committee in June 2017.
"Many cities do this and it costs less," said Post. "The added benefit is more accessible taxis for our growing accessible tourism sector."
The taxi industry review and the staff report will be before the municipality's transportation committee Tuesday.
- A previous version of this story said the taxi industry review rejected the idea of installing security cameras in cabs. In fact, the review called for mandatory security cameras while a municipal staff report rejected that suggestion.Feb 01, 2019 9:34 PM AT
With files from Pam Berman