Taxi? Make that “no new taxis” in Taxiland

The titanic battle to secure 122 new taxi licences in Vancouver hit an iceberg yesterday when Victoria’s Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) elbowed its way into the regulatory queue and rejected applications for 60 cabs before City Council even considered the matter.

Council deferred a decision on 122 new cabs at the industry’s request last October, in the throes of the civic election. In December, however, Vancouver Taxi and MacClure’s Cabs went straight to the PTB for 30 licences each. This would be on top of 111 new cabs added in 2007, an increase of 23 percent.

Oddly their applications were opposed by Yellow Cab, which is the strongest advocate for a big new increase. Why? One industry veteran explained it this way: “Welcome to Taxiland.”

Normally, the PTB would wait for the city to weigh in. Not this time. The decisions posted in the April 15 weekly bulletin rejected both applications.

A critical question considered by the PTB is public need. Board adjudicator Dennis Day analyzed two weeks worth of Black Top despatches in late 2008 covering 73,865 trips. An astonishing 96.8 percent were serviced within 10 minutes or less. The only exceptions: Friday and Saturday nights, when club traffic slows the response time. After cataloguing the decline in tourism revenue and cruise ship visits, which predated the current recession, Day ruled the evidence “is not supportive of the case for an increase in the number of taxis.”

Meanwhile, the city’s Taxi Roundtable grinds forward. Council will soon be briefed on the results and a report to council will follow. Will any of it matter?

Day concluded that “there is no evidence before me to support that the applicant has made any attempt to continuously monitor service levels in order to assess the impact of the last round of expansion or to substantiate the need for further expansion of the fleet.” No new taxis in Taxiland.