The fare fight
By Colin Dunne
Drunken hooligans will have to rely on other modes of transportation if the taxi safety advisory committee has its way.
A proposed city by-law to be implemented this fall aims at allowing taxi drivers the legal right to refuse any passenger who may prove to be dangerous or has a history of fare-jumping.
The proposal, put forward by London's taxi safety advisory committee, was prompted in part by a recent rise in the number of drivers physically or verbally assaulted by passengers, said city councillor Megan Walker, chair of the committee.
The committee, comprised of taxi company management, drivers and city council members, was formed last January and has made numerous recommendations regarding the working conditions of taxi drivers, Walker said.
"This is exactly the type of measure taxi drivers were asking for and is a positive move which will enhance the taxi industry and safety of drivers," she said.
While highly supported by London's two main taxi services, Aboutown and U-Need-A Cab, the by-law is not without opposition. Councillor Gary Williams of the environment and transportation committee is concerned the by-law may invite opportunity for discrimination.
"I want to make sure the by-law adequately addresses safety concerns for the taxi drivers but we shouldn't inadvertently go forward and offer the opportunity to discriminate. We have to be careful how it's put down on paper," he said.
Walker does not see this as a problem, as discrimination in any aspect and no matter where you work, is illegal, she said.
"The reality is that taxi drivers work long hours under very stressful circumstances," Walker said, adding if averaged out, most drivers make under $5 an hour.
"The idea that a taxi driver is going to turn down any fare [for reasons other than safety] is ludicrous."
Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of "runners" persons who exit the taxi without paying the fare, she said, adding the new by-law will attempt to prohibit this from happening.
Tom Donnelly, general manager of Aboutown, said they currently have a similar policy in place. Drivers are trained to remove themselves from a situation they consider to be unsafe, he said. "If you have a drunken student waving a beer bottle over their head, [drivers are told to] drive on."