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6 Charlottetown taxi rules you need to know about

The safety of taxi cabs is one of the main issues being addressed by a task force reviewing Charlottetown's taxi bylaw. However there are already a number of rules aimed at passenger safety and comfort.

Criminal record checks, visible driver licences, and clean, safe cars

Digital fingerprints are taken as part of background checks for taxi drivers by Charlottetown police. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The safety of taxi cabs is one of the main issues being addressed by a task force reviewing Charlottetown's taxi bylaw.

The task force was set up to address concerns over perceived safety issues and inconsistency of fares that surfaced in a youth retention report done for the city.

City police are responsible under Charlottetown's taxi bylaw for licensing all drivers. "Being compliant to the bylaws is very important to us," said Brad MacConnell, Charlottetown's deputy police chief, who is heading the task force.

While the bylaw is currently under review, there are already a number of rules aimed at ensuring passenger safety and comfort.

Const. Ron Kennedy with Charlottetown police traffic services does background checks for taxi drivers when they apply for a licence. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

1. Background checks

Right now, police run criminal background checks on all drivers when they apply for a licence.

If an applicant has any of the following on their record, they won't get a licence:

  • Any sexual offence.
  • An indictable offence or drug trafficking offence in the previous two years.
  • Any other criminal conviction within the past year.

"Every year they're required to do this process over and over and over, every year for as long as they want to have an active licence," said Const. Ron Kennedy with Charlottetown police traffic services.

Police also do what's called a vulnerable person check to see if there are any complaints on file, even if they haven't resulted in a charge or conviction.

Police are looking specifically for anything that could affect a driver's ability to safely chauffeur passengers, such as a history of alcohol and drugs, violence or sexual assault and their driving record.

"Maybe a victim made a complaint against a person. It could've been sexual, or sexual assault complaint, and they didn't go through with charges, we would still take that into consideration," he said.

As part of this check, police confirm the driver's legal name and take driver's fingerprints to determine they are who they say they are.

While police do these background checks, police say the employer is ultimately responsible for who they hire.

2. Licences can be revoked

If police find any breaches of the rules the taxi driver's licence can be revoked.

In the past 10 years, that's happened three times.

The most recent and most serious was last year, when a taxi driver sexually assaulted a passenger in his cab. Paramveer Singh Bhurjee was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The other two licences revoked were in 2010 and 2012 and involved incidents that didn't happen while the drivers were on the job, said MacConnell.

Police did not provide the details but said to revoke a licence the driver must have had a serious infraction, like acts or threats of violence, or a charge of a sexual offence.

3. Licence must be displayed

Taxi drivers are required under the bylaw to display their photo ID licence in their car at all times.

Failing to do so will net the driver a fine of $50 to $100. City police said they've fined four drivers in recent months.

Kennedy said anyone with concerns about a driver has the right to ask to see the driver's licence.

"If they can't provide their licence I'd just say, 'We're not going anywhere,'" said Kennedy.

Taxi companies have agreed to work with the task force on a way to securely display licences inside cabs.

Every taxi driver in Charlottetown is required to post their licence in their cab. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

4. Complaints

Right now, if a passenger complains to a taxi company "there's no obligation for them [the companies] to report them to police," said MacConnell, adding he'd like to change that.

"Personally I was concerned by that, 'cause we're the ones that authorize the licences. We would like to have all the information before us before we're giving someone the ability to drive our citizens or our visitors around. So it's important for us to have a full picture of who we're authorizing." 

Many other cities have taxi commissions that review complaints and also regulate how the industry operates.

MacConnell does recommend passengers call police if they feel they have a serious complaint.

5. Cleanliness and sharing your cab

Drivers are not allowed to pick up additional passengers without the permission of the passengers already in the cab. And drivers are not allowed to transport more than six passengers at one time.

In addition to authorizing drivers' licences, police also inspect every vehicle that will be used as a cab before it gets a taxi vehicle licence.

They check for cleanliness, safety features and to make sure the inside of the vehicle meets size requirements set out in the bylaw. This is in addition to the annual highway safety inspection.

Cabs must also have an illuminated sign on the roof showing which company they're working with.

Under the bylaw, once approved, the taxi vehicle licence must be displayed on the exterior of the cab.

6. What's a legitimate cab? 

​Charlottetown has four licensed taxi stands, 110 taxi owner-operators, and an additional 67 "swing" drivers, who are licensed to use vehicles of owner-operators when they're not driving them.

Only taxis licensed by Charlottetown police are allowed to operate within the city. That means Uber cabs and independents are illegal. Operating without a taxi licence is a $500 fine. 

Every vehicle licensed to be used as a taxi must display its licence on the vehicle. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Kennedy says these restrictions are for passenger safety.

"The checks are being done, and they're required to have been done every year. If you're phoning up someone who's not a licenced taxi driver, you don't really know what you're getting."

Overall, Kennedy says, he believes the taxi industry in Charlottetown is "very safe" with the annual checks on drivers and inspections of vehicles.

About the Author

Sally Pitt

Producer

Sally Pitt is a producer with CBC and has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years in online, TV, radio and print. She specializes in justice issues and also works with the CBC Atlantic Investigative Unit. You can reach her at sally.pitt@cbc.ca.