How long should you have to wait for a cab? As long as you wait for a drink?
The recent BC Supreme Court injunction, which barred access to Vancouver’s lucrative weekend taxi market to suburban cabs pending further judicial review in August, has produced another outpouring of media grief about the allegedly unconscionable waiting times for cabs, now 15 minutes on average in the Granville Entertainment district.
This is often less time than it takes many club patrons to line up, wait for admission, pay a cover charge and obtain a costly drink . . . much less time, maybe about half the time in many cases.
But access to a hip Granville St. bar is something to aspire to and pay for; a cab is something we have a right to, right now, on command.
Can you imagine if you had to line up in the rain, talk to a security guard and then pay a fee just to hail a cab? Unthinkable. We only do that to have a drink in a club.
Of course, 15 minutes is average. Some lucky passengers do step out to the sidewalk and flag a cab in seconds. Others, often those in the suburbs, sit by the phone for 30 minutes.
The August judicial review is the Vancouver taxi industry’s last chance to overturn a recent decision of the passenger transportation board to allow suburban cabs to pick up in the entertainment district on weekends.
Until now, the larger weekend fleet was run by the existing four companies. Those would be the ones who have large numbers of taxis available in Vancouver 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when no one needs a cab. Limits have long been placed on the overall number of cabs, and the companies operating them, to strike a reasonable balance between the peaks and valleys of taxi demand.
The Vancouver firms are ready to offer the extra service, but the Passenger Transportation Board’s decision to allow the suburban cabs to come downtown is a ruling they must appeal or face serious economic losses. That decision comes in August.
If the suburban cabs win the argument, it will mark a sea change in the industry in the Lower Mainland.
It will also pose another huge economic challenge to the Vancouver industry, which has weathered competition from the Canada Line, car sharing and night buses without complaint.
What it won’t do is make it possible to flag a cab anytime, anywhere.