Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Papers reveal flow of taxi complaints

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IN a little over a year, Winnipeggers have complained about taxi drivers running red lights, falling asleep at the wheel and bootlegging booze for an alcoholic woman.

According to documents obtained following a freedom-of-information request, approximately 270 grievances have been filed to the Manitoba Taxicab Board since September 2010.

Drivers praised for going the extra mile

Duffys Taxi driver Ranjodh Punia didnt quite get his passengers to their destination on time, but became a local hero anyway.

At a red light in St. Boniface, a woman gave birth in the back seat of Punias cab in November, which made him a citywide sensation.

"They asked if I could take them to the hospital. They needed to go to St. Boniface Hospital. I said, Dont worry about the money and get in the car. When I arrived on William and Isabel, she started crying."

Thats when Punia realized he needed a little help.

"I called 911 and asked them to follow me because Im not in the position to stop the car in situations like this one. At a red light on Provencher, there was a baby boy (born)," he said.

Punia continued on and dropped off the mother and her new son at the hospital. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority later said the mother and baby were fine.

Not every driver goes to such lengths. But many do. Heres a sampling of some of the compliments the Manitoba Taxicab Board received over the last three years:

Driver was pleasant and courteous.

Has been my driver a couple of times, a very good guy.

Car always clean.

Driver professional and friendly.

"Good driver, I always feel safe with him."

Car was clean and smelled nice.

Driver polite and friendly.

-- source: Manitoba Taxicab Board

The holiday season, when more people use cabs to get home safely from Christmas parties, is a hotbed of complaints. Last year, one-third of all complaints about drivers were reported between early December and early January.

Among complaints filed to the taxi board were drivers weaving recklessly through traffic, not helping a customer with their bags and dismantling a walker incorrectly.

In July, a man reported a driver was bootlegging booze to his alcoholic wife.

A summary of last years complaints shows the majority of passengers dont complete the paperwork needed to carry the complaint through to the taxicab board.

Karla Jacobson, 31, tried to file a complaint with the board in October. Her father was taking a cab to her house and, when he got out of the vehicle, he collapsed on the pavement and was left unconscious outside.

Jacobson said she called the cab company to find out what happened, but was dissatisfied with their reaction.

"The supervisors first response was, How do you know it was us? After he confirmed a cab had been dispatched to my address... his next response was, What do you want me to do about it? " said Jacobson.

No one was around to witness whether the driver was present when her father collapsed. When Jacobson went to file a complaint on her fathers behalf, the paperwork was so overwhelming she withdrew before going any further.

The complaint process is a serious one, acknowledged taxicab board secretary Joan Wilson.

In 2010, 149 complaints were filed against taxi drivers and only 12 were reported as resolved.

"Id say theres a number of reasons why, but they probably think when theyre unhappy with a service, they just call and complain. But its a fairly complicated procedure that takes time to not only write the complaint, but to come in person (to the hearing)," said Wilson.

"Id say only 20 per cent of people go through the entire process because it takes up so much time."


Breakdown of reported grievances

Complaints / 2010 / 2011 (as of Oct.) Totals

Service refusal / 4 / 4 / 8

Service poor / 10 / 6 / 16

Driver conduct / 99 / 52 /151

Driver appearance / 0 / 0 / 0

Driver road habits / 31 / 28 / 59

Taxi condition / 2 / 8 / 10

Articles lost/collateral / 9 / 5 / 14

Overcharge / 26 / 11 / 37

General complaints / 0 / 0 /  0

Police referrals/MPI / 8 / 0 / 8

Other/ 5 / 5 / 10

Meter not on / 8 / 8 / 16

Cellphone / 11 / 10 / 21

Dispatch company / 5 / 5 / 10

Illegal operator / 2 / 0 / 2

Totals /149 / 124 / 273


-- source: Manitoba Taxicab Board

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2012 B2

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