Victoria hearing on bid to allow suburban cabs into Vancouver could trigger turmoil in city taxi industry

The thorny issue of how to provide sufficient taxi service to Vancouver’s downtown core on Fridays, Saturdays and special event nights may be back on the front burner, despite the sudden resignation of the chair of the province’s Passenger Transportation Board.

Lawyer Nathan Bauder, a supporter of Premier Christy Clark, was appointed to head the PTB July 8. He  was forced to resign Aug. 3 after being cited by the Law Society in connection with allegations of falsifying documents.

During Bauder’s short term, the board suddenly revived a hearing into applications from 16 suburban taxi firms to operate 15 percent of their fleets in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday nights. Those applications were effectively put on hold in a March 17 decision that approved a Vancouver pilot program to tackle the issue with 65 temporary cab licences, all issued to Vancouver firms,  on the high-traffic nights.

So the Vancouver industry was stunned when the  PTB’s July 27 bulletin suddenly announced that the hearing into the suburban firms’ application is back on. The deadline for submissions on the matter was  Aug. 11.

In its March 17 ruling, the PTB approved 65 special temporary licences for Vancouver firms for a six-month period, all operating on Friday and Saturday nights and special event days, with a formal evaluation process to determine their impact. That pilot program will not be completed until November and the evaluation will not be available until early 2012.

Nonetheless, the PTB appears set to make a decision on the suburban application. If approved, it will trigger an upheaval in the regional taxi industry.

The March 17 ruling — available on a link for the Yellow Cab application in this March 23 bulletin — noted that the suburban taxi application “could potentially impact not only service in the Vancouver area but also service in other municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District.”

That’s why it made sense to hold off on the suburban firms’ applications until the Vancouver pilot project was approved. Despite an Aug. 4 appeal from the City of Vancouver to stay the course set in March, the PTB seems to be forging ahead with a hearing that could set a new direction for taxi service region-wide.