Bylaw officers began enforcing new rules for taxis May 1.
The changes affect the vehicle for hire bylaw, which controls how taxis conduct themselves within the city.
The new regulations include requiring at least one accessible vehicle during all hours a company operates, a machine to take debit and credit cards, no additional fee for paying with a card, the capability to accept requests for cabs via text message or web-based systems for hearing-impaired people and having security cameras present and recording in all vehicles.
These changes have been on the books since July 2015. City cab companies were given nearly two years to comply.
“These new requirements will greatly improve community safety for both drivers and passengers,” said Mayor Dan Curtis in a press release.
Ken Giam, owner of Premier Cabs Whitehorse which operates 30 taxis in the city, said the bylaw updates are damaging to the cab industry.
“This is the problem we are facing. The city doesn’t care about the taxi industry,” said Giam.
Giam said it is not reasonable to expect every cab company to have a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Premier Cabs has had an accessible vehicle for the last six months and receives only one call per month for it, he said.
“The city is punishing the taxi industry,” he said.
Giam said the cameras the city wants installed are needlessly elaborate and expensive, costing around $600 each.
“Why so expensive? Why such high resolution?” he asked.
Giam said the required cameras are more than what is necessary to protect the public.
The cameras need to be of a certain quality in order to record in the dark, said Dave Pruden, the city’s bylaw services manager.
Pruden said having cameras in cabs is for the protection of both cab drivers and riders. Cameras are an “industry standard” in the south, he said.
“A lot of people weren’t taking cabs anymore before they didn’t feel safe.”
If the city were interested in protecting the public, he said, they would “limit the field of play for taxis” because, as it stands now, taxi businesses are “not viable.”
Giam said there are criminal elements already within some taxi companies.
“There are already drug traffickers, human traffickers in our industry because we aren’t making any money,” he said. “You can’t just let any Tom, Dick and Harry set up a cab company. You’re not attracting genuine businessmen.”
Giam said he has been trying to sell his company for the last five years.
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