City committee OKs proposal to abolish taxi accessibility fee
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/02/2019 (1401 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
City council’s public works committee has given its stamp of approval to a proposal that would scrap the $12.65 accessibility fee on door-to-door cab service in Winnipeg, which some critics call a de facto disability tax.
It is just one recommendation included in the city’s first annual report from its new vehicles-for-hire department, which was established in the wake of the province dissolving the Taxicab Board and handing responsibility for the industry over to municipalities March 1, 2018.
Allen Mankewich, a consultant with the Independent Living Resource Centre, said he’s hopeful the tax on door-to-door service will soon become a thing of the past.
“In a lot of cases, it’s been charged to people whether they needed door-to-door service or not. They’re just using it indiscriminately at this point. We have documented incidents of it… It’s not charged to anyone else except people who use wheelchairs,” said Mankewich, who uses a wheelchair.
“From the research we’ve done, we can’t find any other jurisdictions charging such a fee. In fact, in bylaws in other cities, it explicitly forbids this type of charge.”
The recommendation, alongside a handful of others made at Tuesday’s meeting, will have to get approval from the executive policy committee and city council before being finalized.
At the meeting, Ram Vallur, general manager of Duffy’s Taxi, who was there representing both Unicity and Duffy’s, outlined industry concerns that regulations are skewed in favour of drivers who work for ride-hailing services.
For example, he said, there have been 13,301 cab inspections since March 1, 2018, while vehicles for ride-hailing services only had 390 such inspections.
Grant Heather, manager of the vehicles for hire department, countered, saying it isn’t cracking down harder on cab drivers. There are a number of explanations for why the one industry racked up more inspections, such as cabs accounting for 92 per cent of the vehicle for hire service in Winnipeg, he said.
“When you look at the number of trips provided, being 92 per cent and eight per cent for the (ride-hailing) side of the industry, the expectation would be that the vehicles that are out there more often, providing more service, would likely be inspected more,” Heather said.
“We are constantly out there with a mobile enforcement team… They’re out at the airport. They’re out at the malls. They’re out at Walmart and other shopping places. They’re out at the hospitals.”
Vallur also raised concern over the frequency with which cab drivers have to submit criminal record checks to the City of Winnipeg to remain in good standing. Currently, drivers have to submit criminal record checks annually, but Vallur would like to see that lessened to every three years.
He also highlighted the fact cab drivers must submit such paperwork to the city, while ride-hailing drivers only have to supply the documentation to employers.
While being questioned about the process by Coun. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan), Heather admitted there have been “major problems” getting ride-hailing companies to ensure drivers’ criminal record checks and paperwork are complete and up-to-date.
“We have noticed that some of the (ride-hailing) companies haven’t done as good of a job with their paperwork… They’ve maybe allowed some of the documentation to lapse. When we’ve caught that, we have immediately suspended those drivers,” Heather said. “For some of the companies that have repeatedly done this, there is the option to issue penalty notices. We are in the process of issuing some penalty notices as we speak.”
Since March 1, the annual report says, there has been an increase of 400 vehicles for hire on Winnipeg’s streets, in large part due to the introduction of ride-hailing services.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 9:43 PM CST: Fixes headline