Winnipeg’s largest taxi dispatcher says its drivers won’t offer trips from the airport to the downtown area for a flat fee if city hall green-lights a proposal to standardize rates for travellers.
The public service has put forward a recommendation to amend the vehicles-for-hire bylaw to create a flat-fare schedule for trips that start at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and end in and around downtown Winnipeg. The change would not apply to trips to the airport.
Grant Heather, who manages the municipal body that regulates taxis, detailed the proposal — which was initially requested by the Winnipeg Airports Authority — in a report submitted to the public works committee.
The committee is expected to review it during a meeting on Nov. 19.
"We are not happy with the flat rate and we will not do it," said Tarlochan Gill, chairman of the Unicity Taxi board. "We do service at our meters. Whatever our meter costs us, customers should pay that."
A longtime taxi driver, Gill said a one-way trip from the airport to the city’s core ranges from under $20 during slow periods to about $30 during rush hour and, occasionally, upwards of $40 if there is a lot of road construction along the route.
"We already told the airport authority we don’t want a flat rate because morning is different, afternoon is different, rush hour is different," he said, adding he planned to write Heather a complaint Thursday and request an urgent meeting on the matter.
A colleague at Unicity Taxi, Gurmail Gill, agreed industry had not been properly consulted on flat-fare-pricing — a change he said would randomly and unfairly stray from the standard for taxi trips all over the city.
Meanwhile, airport spokesman Tyler MacAfee touted the change as a move that would place Winnipeg in line with other cities across the country.
Earlier this year, Saskatoon’s airport authority instituted flat-rate pricing for trips from the airport. Other cities including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal have similar practices.
"Any time you’re travelling, you get into a cab, you’re wondering, ‘Is this the best way to get downtown?’ It creates that consistency and transparency," MacAfee said, adding that while the move ensures travellers need not worry about drivers taking detours to run up fares, that isn't a big concern in Winnipeg.
City spokesperson Adam Campbell said that if approved by council, the city and airport would determine appropriate rates and present them to industry for feedback.
Passengers can currently negotiate a flat rate for any trip that starts at the airport to any area of the city, but customers cannot be charged more than the total fare displayed on the meter at the end of their trip.
If approved, the change would allow for trips with a flat rate within the specified zone — downtown and The Forks with the meter off, Campbell said, adding passengers would still be free to negotiate a lower rate.
A proposed rate has yet to be released, although MacAfee said it would take into account an average trip. The plan, he said, is to finalize details early next year. Changes could come into effect as early as March 1.
After that, he said there is potential to consider setting flat rates for trips to other areas of the city.
So far this year, taxis have made more than 3.2 million trips in Winnipeg. They account for 92 per cent of total vehicles-for-hire trips in the city.
Maggie Macintosh is a reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
Updated on Friday, November 15, 2019 at 6:16 AM CST: Changes photo