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Cab drivers hope council agrees with 10% meter increase to help fight soaring costs


City staff are recommending council approve a 10-per-cent increase to the taxi meter rates in a report that will be first considered by the community and protective services committee on May 19.

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Ali Enad is leaving his job as president of the local taxi union on a high note, knowing Ottawa city council will soon consider the first increase to meter rates in 12 years.

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The roughly 700 members of Unifor Local 1688 have been struggling with cost inflation, considering the rising prices for gas, maintenance and insurance.

In the last three years, “prices went crazy,” Enad said Tuesday.

“We just can’t keep up with it.”

With the union election on Thursday and Enad not seeking re-election, he’s leaving the post with some satisfaction that city hall understands the plight of cabbies.

City staff are recommending council approve a 10-per-cent increase to the taxi meter rates in a report that will be first considered by the community and protective services committee on May 19.

If council agrees, the meter increase would happen on June 11.

A 15-kilometre taxi trip that costs $31.08 today would cost $34.88 after the increase comes into effect.

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Council hasn’t increased the meter rates since an eight-per-cent increase was approved in 2010.

Enad said the union and Coventry Connections, the largest taxi company in Ottawa, sent a joint letter to the city earlier this year asking for the 10-per-cent increase. While taxi meter increases are supposed to happen on Oct. 1 under a bylaw, the taxi reps asked for an increase to happen as soon as possible.

The bylaw dictates how much cabbies charge the public, designed as a consumer-protection measure.

But there have been major changes to the ride-ordering market over the past 12 years, with the city creating a vehicle-for-hire bylaw in 2016.

There are different bylaw rules for cabbies and “private transportation companies” (PTC), such as Uber and Lyft. For example, the city doesn’t set the prices for PTCs.

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Many cabbies still believe the vehicle-for-hire bylaw puts them at a disadvantage in a highly competitive ride-ordering market.

Cab drivers also drew the city’s attention to their mandatory $5-million commercial general liability insurance, since the policy is hard to obtain in Canada.

The city is now proposing to reduce the insurance requirement to $2 million, which falls in line with regulations in other municipalities.

The city has recognized that the meter rates have fallen behind the taxi cost index, which relies on data collected by Statistics Canada. The city says the index suggests taxi operating costs have increased by 20 per cent over the past two years.

“Adjusting meter rates to reflect changes in cost conditions helps stabilize driver incomes which in turn influences the quality of driver retained by the industry and the resultant quality of service to the passenger,” according to a report submitted to council by Bylaw Chief Roger Chapman and released publicly on Tuesday.

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One request from the taxi industry not addressed by Chapman’s report is a $20 charge for trips starting at the airport.

Enad said cabbies haven’t requested taxi meter increases in past years because they have been trying to build back their businesses after the arrival of PTCs in Ottawa.

“We’re trying to compete with ride-sharing so it wasn’t a good time to ask for an increase while we tried to get our customers back,” Enad said.

Enad said the union hopes the city opens the vehicle-for-hire bylaw for a comprehensive review in the next term of council.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

Customer taxi fare rates for a 15-kilometre ride

Sarnia: $48.79

Kingston: $43.04

Saskatoon: $35.53

Ottawa (proposed): $34.88

Oakville: $33.10

Ottawa (current): $31.08

Hamilton: $30.75

Brampton: $30.60

Mississauga: $30.60

Toronto (proposed): $30.22

Toronto (current): $29.22

Windsor: $27.07

Rates source: City of Ottawa

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