City looks to lower fees for taxi and ride-share industries

·3 min read
The changes would replace the city's existing livery transport bylaw, and feature lower fees for multiple licencing categories. (CBC - image credit)
The changes would replace the city's existing livery transport bylaw, and feature lower fees for multiple licencing categories. (CBC - image credit)

City council's community and protective services committee voted unanimously to reduce many fees for taxi and ride-sharing services on Wednesday, in an effort to make Calgary's livery industry more equitable.

The changes would replace the city's existing livery transport bylaw, and feature lower fees for multiple licencing categories.

They include driver's licences and renewals for both ride-sharing and taxi companies, and plate applications, licencing and renewals for taxi drivers.

Some fees will also be added in some areas to better equalize expenses across the industry.

A snapshot of some licencing fees the city is proposing to alter taken from Wednesday's livery transport bylaw review.
A snapshot of some licencing fees the city is proposing to alter taken from Wednesday's livery transport bylaw review.(City of Calgary)

For example, a new $95 fee for online driver training will be mandatory regardless of sector, and previously was only applied to taxi companies.

The city also wants to give taxi companies the option of introducing up-front pricing for trips to allow them to better compete with ride-share companies.

"This is, I think, a triumph of administration working with two industries that are at war with each other, that are locked in a terrible battle," Ward 9 Coun. Gian Carlo-Carra said.

"The fact that in the space of all of this, we bring forward a renewed bylaw that really was not controversial … it's a great balancing act."

The changes will now go to city council later this month, and if approved, will take effect in 2022.

'Being treated fairly'

Calgary's taxi industry last asked for changes to the city's livery bylaw in 2019.

Industry leaders said at the time that drivers were struggling to compete with upstart ride-share services like Uber.

In response, city administration recommended a full review of the livery transport bylaw, which governs how both taxi and ride-shares must operate in Calgary.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, left, said Wednesday's unanimous vote represented a victory in what has been a 'battle' between ride-sharing and taxi companies. Coun. George Chahal, right, was part of the vote, and has previously campaigned to stop fee increases for taxi drivers.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, left, said Wednesday's unanimous vote represented a victory in what has been a 'battle' between ride-sharing and taxi companies. Coun. George Chahal, right, was part of the vote, and has previously campaigned to stop fee increases for taxi drivers.(Terri Trembath/CBC/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

"The reality is that Calgarians have a lot of choices now, and we're trying to create an environment where the customer gets what they need, and the people who are serving the customer are being treated fairly," Carra said Wednesday.

According to the city, there were 3,900 ride-share drivers in December 2020 — down from 4,800 in December 2019.

Meanwhile, there were 1,800 taxi cars in Calgary in both December 2019 and 2020.

Making headway

Kurt Enders, the president of Checker Transportation Group, told CBC News in May 2019 that the number of taxi drivers in the city was dwindling because they were having a hard time making ends meet.

He said drivers were being forced to a pay "a disproportionate amount of money to get a business license for them to earn a living."

When asked about the city's proposed changes to the bylaw on Wednesday, Enders said it would address some of the imbalances between taxi and ride-sharing companies, but stressed there is still work to do.

"The proposal does bring a balance into more perspective as to what we've been looking for, which is nice to see," Enders said.

"Still a long way to go, but we are making headway, which is always very positive."

However, some fee assistance will likely impact taxi and ride-share drivers sooner than 2022. To alleviate the impact of the pandemic on businesses, the city offered relief to the hard-hit industry by reducing fees in 2020.

A proposal to do the same in 2021 will go to council on March 15.