New accessible cab licenses in works

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Many Aboutown Cabs parked along the side of the road

Casey Yetman

MORE BLUEBOYS THAN A LOS ANGELES DONUT SHOP. While it may seem like there are cabs aplenty on Richmond Row, accessible transit is a serious problem for those in need in the city.

A new proposal before London City Council could mean more accessible cabs on the street " potentially alleviating some of the problems associated with London’s accessible transportation.

With only nine accessible taxicabs currently operating in the city, people who require accessible transportation have to hope one of the cabs is available when they need it.

“Cabs need to be accessible. By not being accessible they’re denying a portion of the population,” said Jeff Preston, a grad student at Western who uses accessible transportation.

The proposed new rules, created in anticipation of new provincial government regulations coming in January 2009, would create a number of new accessible cab licenses in the city.

“Right now, there are many people who need accessible taxis who can’t get them instantly,” said Harold Usher, Ward 12 city councillor and chairperson of the environment and transportation committee.

“For example, if someone is waiting at the airport, they need to call a cab three to four hours in advance.”

Usher explained the new licenses would be non-transferable, requiring the license owner to drive the vehicle. Additionally, those who already own a cab license in London would be unable to obtain an accessible license. These cabs would primarily serve disabled persons, but also the general public.

These new rules were created in part to alleviate the “stranglehold” license-holders have had on the cab industry for years, according to Ward 4 councillor Stephen Orser.

Under current city laws, there is a set number of cab licenses issued, which leads to a lengthy waiting list and most drivers lease instead. The cost of leasing is a contentious issue.

Orser stated some drivers are being charged $1,000 a month for the license " even though the city only requires an annual renewal fee of $500.

“All the value and expense is in the plate,” Orser said.

“One recent license transfer went for $140,000 to two brothers who already owned several licenses,” Orser recalled.

Aboutown Transportation Ltd. vice-president Jamie Donnelly believes these numbers are over-stated.

“Ballpark figures for Aboutown drivers would be somewhere around $650 to $700 monthly,” he said.

“You have to look at it like a rental, because this is something that has been invested in and built upon.”

Donnelly explained the expenses associated with operating a cab company, citing numerous city expenses levied on the cab industry by the city.

“The city collects close to $200,000 in user fees annually from the industry.”

On the issue of accessible transportation, Donnelly feels any decision made by London is premature, adding London currently ranks ahead of Toronto in accessible transportation.

“At the moment 2.7 per cent of London taxis are accessible. The City of Toronto, with its 5,000 taxis, of which 75 are accessible, is only at 1.5 per cent.”

One problem Donnelly foresees is the cost of an accessible cab: upwards of $50,000 for one vehicle. “Given the capital required, many of the drivers who are able to [afford an accessible cab] are too old to desire driving,” Donnelly said.

“There is no way for the city to foresee the future provincial regulations at this time.”

Orser disagrees: “This will make [London] a benchmark … other cities will take notice.”

Those interested in adding to this debate should attend a meeting on the subject on March 17 at Centennial Hall.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette