Saskatoon

Saskatoon city councillors share grievances about new taxi rate zones with airport CEO

City councillor say some customers are paying more than they did when rides were metered.

City councillors say some customers are paying more compared to previous metered system

City councillors are reporting concerns over the new flat rate system for rides to and from the Saskatoon airport. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

The CEO of Saskatoon's airport authority heard concerns from city councillors Monday about the new airport taxi flat rate zones.

Both Troy Davies and Cynthia Block said people in their wards have paid more for an airport taxi ride under the flat rate system unrolled this past January, compared to the previous metered system.

"It used to be $26 from Hampton Village, there and back to the airport, where it's now $38," Davies said.

The concerns shared with Stephen Mayberry, the CEO of the Saskatoon Airport Authority, didn't end there.

Mayberry, when asked for clarity on the subject, said that customers should be able to receive a metered ride — instead of the flat rate for their zone — if they request one.

"If you asked for a metered rate, my service provider" — United Cabs — "tells me they would provide the metered rate," said Mayberry. 

But councillors Darren Hill said "that's not what's happening."

Hill drew from recent personal experience, citing a cab ride he took from the airport on Saturday.

Hill said he was "completely refused" a metered ride.

Davies pointed to seven similar complaints from residents writing on a Facebook page.

It's up to the driver, says cab company

Carlo Triolo of United Cabs said each driver is self-employed and operates their own business.

"So if he makes choices to ignores bylaws and so forth, then that's his choice," Triolo said.

"As a passenger reports that to either the airport or our company or city hall, then we can react to those on an individual basis."

Triolo said United drivers who have access to the airport's commercial curb went through a "fairly inclusive" training process, including videos and an exam.

"I would say it's pretty thorough," he said.

Dale Gallant, a United Cabs taxi driver, said "we've been told we have to use the flat rate, except for certain circumstances."

Those exceptions are:

  • When the customer requests a route that is not the shortest route.
  • When a customer is dropped off at a road location outside any of the zones.
  • When a trip makes more than one stop.

In those cases, the driver will automatically use a metered ride, said Gallant.

He said making the zones smaller might lead to "more accurate" pricing.

Block said some residents have been surprised by the new rates. 

"I've heard from residents in my ward that in some situations, they're maybe just one street off of a much different fare, and if you're not aware of that, you're going to get caught off-guard," said Block.

Triolo said a commitment was made to review the flat rates 90 days after launch. The program's three-month anniversary is April 17.

The airport's 10-year contract with United Cabs expires this year, Mayberry said. 

The new flat rate zones for rides to and from the airport went into effect in January. (Saskatoon Airport Authority)

'We had no knowledge'

Some city councillors said they, too, were caught off guard by the flat rate system, prompting an at-times-tense back-and-forth Monday about communication between the airport and city council.

"Even if our administration was involved in this, we had no knowledge that this was happening," Davies said.

"I didn't see any campaigns, marketing material, maybe I missed it," said Hill, a frequent airport user who is generally supportive of flat rates.

Both Mayberry and Triolo said posters and information were posted at the airport. Information was also posted on the city and airport websites, Mayberry added.

The airport's "community consultative committee" met in May 2018 to discuss the flat rates, followed by an "extensive" feedback period.

"We got lots of great feedback from attendees at that meeting," said Mayberry, adding that Davies actually sits on that committee. "I would encourage you and promote you to go to that. It's a very productive and effective committee."

Davies later said he had been away on holidays during that meeting.

Councillor Troy Davies wants a city councillor to sit on the airport's board of directors in order to improve communication.

Davies said he would work with the airport and the federal transport minister to appoint a city councillor to the airport's board of directors.

"So that this stuff doesn't get missed," Davies said. "So that there's clear communication. We can debate it. Address any red flags that we see. That's our role."

Mayberry repeatedly stressed his openness to feedback.   

"I'm available to you at any point," he said, even giving out his phone number over the council microphone system at one point.

"Please do contact me."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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