Some believe that the arrival of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft in Halifax will lead to increased passenger safety but taxi drivers in the municipality aren’t happy about it.
“It’s absolutely ludicrous,” said Dave Buffet, president of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Taxi Association.
“The greatest safety issue in my 20 years has been major motor vehicle accidents and with the added hours we’re going to be putting in, there’s going to be more possibilities of accidents.”
After hours of debate, regional council voted in favour of city staff recommendations to proceed with amendments to bylaw T-1000, which regulates taxis, accessible taxis, and limousines in the municipality.
Over a dozen amendments were recommended, including increasing the number of taxi owner licences from 1,000 to 1,600.
“It’s based on our population increase,” said Sally Christie, the regional licensing supervisor with the HRM. “We know that we have seen a population increase. We know there are 500 people on the Halifax waitlist today. So, if we were to increase our limitation, or our cap, from a 1,000 to 1,600 that would wipe out our waitlist providing all drivers an opportunity to get an owners licence.”
The increase in owner licences would also curb costly scenarios where some drivers are forced to lease roof lights from owners who can charge hundreds of dollars a month.
“Many [drivers] are in private leasing arrangements and paying astronomical amounts in those arrangements,” Christie said.
Buffet, however, believes the addition of 600 taxi owner licences will adversely affect passenger safety due to a rise in ‘sleep deprived’ drivers.
“We’re not going to get more people calling for cabs but we’re going to get 600 more slices. So, therefore, you get a really thin slice of the same pie so you have to work a lot more hours to get it,” he said.
Regional council voted in favour of all three staff recommendations, including several amendments to the bylaw, a supplementary report on TNC like Uber and Lyft, and an HRM Charter Amendment that will consider subsidies for accessible taxi services.