People hailing a taxi in Brandon could soon be reaching a little further into their pockets when the driver hits the meter.
In April, a petition from members of the taxi industry was presented to the city that requested an increase in the taxi meter “drop rate” from the current $3.20 to $3.80 — an approximate 19 per cent increase.
“The increase is solely to address the fixed costs to run a taxi business,” said 4-Way Taxi general manager Heiko Zinn, speaking on behalf of the taxi industry in Brandon.
The last increase to cab fares was in October of 2008 and Zinn said the landscape has changed since.
“It is necessary because of the one per cent PST increase, insurance costs have gone up, and the minimum wage has been raised several times during that time.”
Zinn estimates that at any given time there are between 40-80 taxis on the road in Brandon.
He explained that when people call for a cab through any of the eight companies registered by the city, the drivers will start the meter when they get there. The “drop rate” is the starting price for the first 100 metres of the trip. In Brandon, that rate is $3.20 with each additional 100 metres costing 18 cents — or $1.80 per kilometre — and 10 cents for each 10 seconds waiting.
The distance travelled and time waiting rates will remain unchanged.
“It’s not an industry where you can just come in and open a business,” Zinn said. “There is an extensive taxi bylaw that you have to adhere to and we are playing catch-up in Brandon as we are still in the low to the middle scale of taxi rates (in Canada).”
It’s a delicate balancing act, keeping rates fair and equitable while at the same time keeping the industry lucrative.
“We have to be careful how far we go with our rates, but in order to have a sustainable transportation business in conjunction with city transit, we have to make the adjustments to make it profitable,” Zinn said.
City treasurer Dean Hammond performed a comprehensive review of the taxi industry in Brandon and supports the change, presenting a bylaw that would change the rate effective Sept. 1.
There are currently 103 taxis and 190 drivers registered for permits with the city.
In the past, critics and members of the taxi industry have questioned whether the number of cabs is too high as it is well above the industry benchmark of one cab for every 1,000 people.
Hammond said he intends to meet with the industry to discuss it further, but doesn’t see a scenario where the city would be interested in putting a cap on the number of taxis.
“We don’t want to limit business opportunities, but at the same time we do have duty to make sure the taxi industry is healthy,” Hammond said.
From the city’s perspective, safety of the vehicles is paramount.
In mid-May of this year eight taxi cabs were inspected randomly, according to Hammond, and one was pulled from service at that time.