Cabbies angry with bylaw

Whitehorse's proposed new taxi bylaw will run independent cabbies out of business, says Ron Pumphrey. A draft bylaw presented to council Wednesday night requires taxis companies to work through a central dispatcher.

Whitehorse’s proposed new taxi bylaw will run independent cabbies out of business, says Ron Pumphrey.

A draft bylaw presented to council Wednesday night requires taxis companies to work through a central dispatcher.

Pumphrey doesn’t have one.

Instead he uses a cellphone fitted with a Bluetooth earpiece to field calls from customers.

One-man operations, like Pumphrey’s, would be illegal if the proposed bylaw passes.

Companies would have a year to comply with all the provisions of the new law.

The requirement for a dispatcher was added to the latest version of the bylaw for the safety of both the customers and the cabbies, said Dave Pruden, manager of bylaw services.

“The dispatch was something that was brought up by the public in reference to the safety of the citizens and of drivers,” he said. “It provides some checks and balances to try to mitigate the risks for the public.”

Keeping in contact with a dispatcher would make it more difficult for cabbies to engage in “unlawful activities,” Pruden told council.

On the flip side, it would also provide a safer working environment for cabbies in the case of emergencies or accidents.

This is particularly important in a city like Whitehorse where cellphone coverage can be spotty, said Pruden.

“At least if they have a dispatcher there’s someone who knows that person’s out there, and where they were last seen or where they were going,” said Pruden. “If time goes by and nobody knows they’re missing, hours can turn into days.”

But Pumphrey doesn’t think his job is all that dangerous and the expense of hiring a dispatcher would be too onerous for him to turn a profit.

“You will effectively be shutting down my business,” he said.

Council also heard criticism about other provisions in the new law.

Under section 71 of the bylaw, any vehicle being used as a cab has to be, “maintained in a condition comparable to a vehicle five years or younger.”

This worries Premier Cabs manager Ken Giam.

“If this section is passed, 90 per cent of taxies on the road will have to be inspected,” he said. “I have a feeling that this is not a safety issue, but a cosmetic issue.”

Unlike a mechanical inspection, there is no criteria spelled out in the law to determine what makes a vehicle comparable to one younger than five years.

“If we are not able to come up with a concrete process, bylaw will just be using their discretion,” said Giam.

Leaving it up to interpretation isn’t fair, he said.

The Vehicle for Hire Bylaw has been in the works since 2010 and has garnered its share of criticism, but Pruden won praise from council for his handling of the process.

It passed first and second reading Wednesday night and will be back before council for a final vote in two weeks.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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