VPD closes Granville Entertainment District to suburban cabs

A mid-level Vancouver Police Department official sparked a storm in the taxi industry May 4.

His  off-the-cuff e-mail invitation to suburban taxi firms to pick up fares in Vancouver’s Granville Entertainment District (GED) on Friday and Saturday nights triggered outrage from Vancouver cabbies, who were involved in several altercations in the downtown core as local drivers, already hurting from the recession, saw out-of-town cabs snatch fares from under their noses.

To rub salt in the wounds, outside firms took the e-mail as a signal that they were welcome to “poach” in Vancouver at any time.

It was a unilateral shift in policy that reflected problems experienced in 2007 when VPD needed extra service to move late-night bar patrons out of the city.

At my urging, Mayor Gregor Robertson took up the issue with Chief Constable Jim Chu, who had already heard from Vancouver’s taxi industry, particularly Yellow Cab’s John Palis.

Thanks to those interventions, VPD is initiating a major change in policy. In a to letter Robertson June 30, VPD Superintendent Warren Lemcke avised that “the four local companies operating in the City now believe they have the capacity to service the GED on weeekend evenings and have asked to be able to prove this.”

As a result, Lemcke has written to all Lower Mainland tax companies “stating that they are no longer allowed to pick up in the GED on weekend evenings, nor at any other time or location in the City unless they are in compliance with City bylaws and Provincial legislation.”

The three-week trial period is a major win for Vancouver’s taxi firms — and a challenge to prove that they can provide good service when GED bars empty out in the early hours of the morning. Stay tuned.