Cab fares set to rise in Brandon
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The cost of a cab ride in Brandon is rising — but not as high as taxi companies would like.
City council has granted a fare hike for taxi operators who face increased costs, but it’s far lower than the amount cab companies requested.
In voting for a more moderate raise, Coun. Glen Parker (Ward 9) said councillors needed to consider that low-income citizens who rely on cabs would be hardest hit by a rate increase.
“We certainly need to recognize the value that the industry brings to the city and to our citizens, but we also have to look at those citizens being able to utilize that industry as well,” Parker said during the regular council meeting Monday night.
The city regulates taxi fares and council reviews the rates when the taxi industry requests changes.
Representatives of that industry did just that in January, seeking rate increases to compensate for higher prices for gas, maintenance, insurance and permits.
Taxi operators noted there hadn’t been a rate increase since 2015, but the cost of living has risen considerably.
Their request was for a rate increase to the first 100 metres of a trip to $4.20 from $3.80 (10.5 per cent), a hike to 25 cents for each additional 100 metres travelled from 18 cents (38 per cent), and a bump in the rate charged for every 10 seconds of waiting time to 20 cents from 10 (100 per cent).
A letter to the city proposing the rate hikes was signed by officials from six taxi companies.
However, at Monday’s council meeting, city solicitor Rex Osivwemu said the taxi operators’ suggestion to raise the base rate to $4.20 would push Brandon’s taxi fares far above those of cities that were studied for comparison — Medicine Hat, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina.
“Here in Brandon, the people to be most impacted by any increment to the base drop rate would be the lower-income users of the service,” Osivwemu said.
Instead, council provided taxi companies more income by tweaking the distance rate at which fares accumulate during a trip.
Council voted to allow taxis to charge $3.80 for the first 95 metres (effectively a five per cent increase from 2015), and 20 cents for each 95-metre span travelled after that (up 29 per cent). The wait time of 1o cents per 10 seconds would remain the same.
So, overall, a five-kilometre cab ride that would’ve cost $12.62 before the changes will now cost about $14.12 (a 12 per cent increase overall). No mention was made at the meeting of when the new rates will come into effect.
During debate, Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Ward 2) proposed to provide taxi operators a bit more income by raising the distance rate to 22 cents per 95 metres, but that suggested amendment was defeated.
In a separate motion, council modified a taxi safety bylaw that restricted the age of vehicles to 10 years. A lawyer for taxi operators appeared before council in February to argue the 10-year time frame was arbitrary as taxis are required to undergo safety inspections twice a year.
Operators wanted the city to move the taxi age restriction to 15 years. That would allow licensed cabs that were consistently inspected to remain on the road for five more years.
Expanding the time taxi vehicles could serve would reduce the frequency cabbies would have to find affordable replacements, a task made more difficult by the pandemic.
Again, council reached a compromise.
Desjarlais pointed to other Canadian cities that had moved to seven-year age limits, and he said he was concerned about the environmental impact older vehicles have and the message that leaving them on the road longer might send, especially as the city is currently developing a climate action plan.
“When a vehicle reaches a certain age, and it’s a gas-guzzling vehicle, the emissions are going to be a lot worse in 10 years than they are when you first take that vehicle off the dealership, the lot,” Desjarlais said.
In this case, the compromise passed by council was suggested by Coun. Barry Cullen (Ward 3), and that was to set the taxi vehicle age limit to 12 years at time of registration.
The Sun contacted multiple city cab companies for comment but couldn’t reach any owners by press time on Wednesday.