Timmins, a city located in northeastern Ontario, Canada is on the verge of having local taxi services provide transportation for city residents who use wheelchairs.
Taxi licenses are issued by TPS (Timmins Police Services Board), which has already established that ten new taxi license plates have to be made available especially for cabs that are wheelchair accessible.
It remains to be seen whether or not the licenses will be coequally distributed among the two Timmins-based taxi companies: Northern Taxi and Vet’s Taxi. Both companies had their say during the TPS board meeting that took place on Monday, September 18. The taxi companies urged the city to take into consideration a number of determinants relevant to their companies.
According to Dauda Raji, Northern Taxi owner, the available ten licenses should be equally divided with five plates for his company and the remaining five for Vet’s Taxi. Moreover, unlike individual and independent drivers, Raji believes it is imperative to have the taxi companies liable for the licenses.
Owner of Vet’s Taxi, Rick Lafleur, on the other hand, thinks the plates should be split through traditional lottery system as this would allow independent drivers or brokers within his organization to have an opportunity to get their hands on the specialty licenses.
“If we’re going to do this we should revert back to the lottery system,” Lafleur noted.
He says the opportunity should be up for grabs for anyone who is interested and wants to invest the money.
"Put the 10 of them (licenses) out there. Put your name in and wherever they land, they land. If they land at Vet’s they land at Vet’s," he added. However, if the licenses landed at Northern, he'd be OK with that, Lafleur said.
Both Northern Taxi and Vet’s Taxi had a few queries with regard to actual requirements for accessibility cabs. The companies also had several questions about what exactly would be required by the city bylaw and by the province as far as new accessibility laws are concerned.
Bearing the considerable cost of buying and taking care of specialized vehicles in mind, Lafleur wanted to figure out the market demand for accessible vehicles. He wanted to know if the city-offered Handy Transit service is in high demand.
It was also important for him to find out whether it would be advantageous for him to make an investment that's likely to run as high as $150,000 to a whopping $200,000 to buy the appropriate vehicles.
Lafleur pointed out that in other communities, the accessibility taxi service is offered based on the regular meter rates. The meter also charges for time utilized for loading and unloading the wheelchair as well as waiting time, in one case.
Raji was interested in finding out whether or not his company could use an accessible taxi as a regular taxi during peak demand times including Thursday or Friday night, in the case that the accessible cab was not being required by an individual with accessibility needs.
It was also to be decided if able-bodied passengers can ride alongside an individual with the accessibility needs at the same time.
Mike Doody, one of the board members pointed out that the board is leaving no stone unturned in a bid to make everyone happy in its deliberations.
Police Chief John Gauthier said he needs to take the projected bylaws back to the work table in order to review small details and then come back to the police board with a draft bylaw and then bring it to the city council for permission.
Chair of the police board, Mayor Steve Black questioned if the draft bylaw could keep the fare same as the current rates in the city i.e. $4.25 starting rate which is followed by $2 a kilometer.
Furthermore, he asked if there could be a requirement for a system that could compare regular taxi fares with accessibility taxi fares.
Black believes it is important to promptly roll out all ten new taxi licenses. He recommended three licenses could be given to Vet’s, three licenses to Northern while the city could retain the remaining four licenses until there is some distinctly defined need in future.
A draft bylaw is slated to be brought back to the police board in October this year for more discussion and plausible approval.
(Image Credit: Regional Rail Link/YouTube)