Policy & Positions Manual
Provincial Issues - Transportation and Infrastructure
Quality of Service Standards and Enforcement for The Taxi Industry (2011)
Taxis are an essential part of the transportation infrastructure and many businesses are particularly sensitive to the tie between taxi service quality and their business success. Businesses in many industries rely on the flexible transportation provided by Taxi’s to enable their customers to easily get to and from their place of business.
Several communities in the province including Oliver, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John have all had serious problems with their taxi operators. In the case of Fort St. John, one operator has 23 of the 24 licenses but chooses to only put 6 vehicles on the road. Applications for a new taxi licenses by possible new market entrants have been denied by the Provincial Passenger Transportation Board due to the number of licenses already issued in the community per capita.
In Fort St John, The Fort St John Tourism Board has received complaints from businesses and residents that the poor state of Taxi Service in the community is having a detrimental impact on their business.
In Oliver, The local city council was forced to pull the business license from the only taxi operator in the community after many complaints about unsafe service.(1)
In Dawson Creek, City Council and the community have come forward with several concerns and complaints about the primary taxi operator. In protest, the only cab operator cut all overnight taxi service in the community for a period of about three weeks in the summer of 2010.(2)
In all of these situations, the local governments were virtually powerless to force any type of improvement on their cab operators.
We recognize the Taxi Industry study done in 1999 (Study of the Taxi Industry in British Columbia) that corrected several of the taxi issues in the lower portion of our province; however, in reviewing the document, there have been no studies that include areas north of Prince George.
The complaints that the Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce as well as the Tourism Fort St. John board have received include, but are not limited to are:
Waits of up to several hours for a taxi to be dispatched. Because of these extended delays and the resulting frustration, these extended waits for taxi service mean that people that otherwise were planning on taking a safe ride home with a taxi, may be led to operate their own vehicles when they may be intoxicated.
Inadequate taxi service at the airport, leaving travelers stranded with no way to get into town
No Taxis equipped with Handicap service
Drivers Smoking in taxis with and without passengers in the vehicles
Drivers treating customers abusively and using foul language
Business people missing appointments because of long delays in taxi service
Provincially, the restaurant industry is already facing challenges with the tougher drinking and driving regulations introduced in late 2010, including revenue losses of between 15-20%. (2)
Having a reliable taxi service is essential to patron safety and to the economic vitality of the hospitality industry.
Local municipal authorities as well as large institutional consumers like airports and hotels are particularly sensitive to the tie between taxi service quality and their city’s image and reputation. Poor treatment of tourists, business people and corporate visitors by taxi drivers can tarnish the city’s reputation and drive away business. The city is then viewed as an undesirable place to do business.
The effect on business is also significant with the retail sectors. Some shops and businesses are reported to be heavily affected, both in terms of lost sales due to reduced services and sometimes no service at all. Without reliable taxi service between the airport, hotels and merchants, potential patrons will not be able to access the businesses.
Taxi and private hire vehicles are an essential form of transportation for the blind and the less mobile.One in seven people in a sample of over 500 stated that regulated taxis and private hire vehicles were their most frequently used form of transport.(3)
The British Columbia Passenger Transportation Board is the regulating body in charge of granting taxi licenses in all communities across the province. Once a taxi license is granted, there is no local input into renewals, proof of performance or quality of service. Further, it is virtually impossible to remove a taxi license from an operator unless the operator is convinced of a criminal offence.(4)
The Passenger Transportation Act was amended in the summer, 2010 to provide the authority for the Registrar of Passenger Transportation (Registrar) the tools needed to ensure that only individuals of suitable conduct and character provide commercial passenger transportation services.
The amended act allow the Registrar to conduct an investigation into whether any applicant, licensee or permit holder is a fit and proper person to provide the service, however, it cannot be anticipated that the Registrar will unilaterally initiate these reviews.
The Registrar will not conduct a “fit and proper” assessment unless they are responding to information of concern, which may come to light in association with license applicants or General Authorization licensees. Some of the circumstances that may trigger a fitness review are: unsavory/illegal activities, serious criminal convictions, continually disregarding conditions of the license, has transferred its license without prior approval from Registrar, and licensee has no control over the business, drivers or other aspects of the business. (Section 39.1 – British Columbia Passenger Transporation Act)
While these new changes are a step in the right direction, there are still no provisions to enforce or encourage proper taxi quality of service in a community.
The Passenger Transportation Branch has a framework for Passenger Transportation Audits of License holders, however these audits are focused more on vehicle licensing, and driver records than quality of service. There are no provisions in the audits for quality of service or recourse if there are public complaints about the service.
Taxi service is similar in nature to a public utility. (According to the Study of the Taxi Industry in British Columbia, done in 1999, the Utilities Commission once regulated taxis in BC).(5)
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure consulted with the Metro Vancouver and other key stakeholders to develop a Taxi Bill of Rights. This Taxi Bill states the rights of both a taxi passenger and taxi driver, and to support the Taxi Bill, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure partnered with the Consumer Protection BC.(6) All though this partnership helps keep the Taxi service in Metro Vancouver compliant with standards and regulations, the bill of rights does not apply to areas outside of Metro Vancouver.
Taxi Bill of Rights:
As a Taxi Passenger you have the right to:
Be picked up and transported to your stated destination by any available on duty taxi driver
Pay the posted rate by cash, or accepted credit card or TaxiSaver voucher
A courteous driver who provides assistance, if requested
Travel with an assistance dog or portable mobility aid
A taxi that is clean, smoke free and in good repair
Direct the route, or expect the most economical route
A quiet atmosphere, upon request
A detailed receipt, when requested
As a Taxi Driver you must obey all laws and have the right to refuse to transport a passenger:
To avoid contravening a law or condition of licence
To protect your, or any passenger’s, health or safety
If the passenger is acting in an offensive manner
If the passenger refuses to provide a deposit, if requested
As it stands, the Passenger Transportation Board, The Ministry of Transportation and local municipalities are basically powerless to enforce quality of service guidelines in their community. The Passenger Transportation Board will grant licenses, but once those licenses are in place, there is very little that can be done to attract new cab companies to communities,
Taxi companies have stated in the past having a hard time with the length of time it takes for drivers to obtain a chauffeur’s license from the RCMP or Local Police. The Passenger Transportation Board stated that it can take anywhere from 1 to 30 days for approval, and Taxi operators have difficulty holding on to new employees that are otherwise ready to work except for waiting for the Chauffeur’s license to clear.(7)
THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS
That the Provincial and Federal Government:
Review the legislative and regulatory structure with respect to the licensing and enforcement of taxi companies to ;
Grant the Passenger Transportation Board the jurisdiction to monitor and enforce quality of service guidelines and conditions of license.
Increase minimum operating standards for taxi operators, including fleet, customer service and mechanical standards and maintenance guidelines.
Adopt the “Taxi Bill of Rights” program that is in place in Metro Vancouver across the Province.
Expedite the process for processing Chauffeur’s Permits
Establish measurable performance targets and minimum standards for taxi operators and conduct regular performance reviews about their adherence in a comprehensive and transparent manner that allows the public to review the records of taxi operators.