Calgary secret taxi police to set up sting operations! Priorities indeed.


The antics of Calgary City Hall never fail to amaze and depress a person. The city of Calgary has actually strangled taxi licenses so much over the years that “gypsy” cabs have been appearing to provide transportation to stranded and desperate Calgarians. In response to this issue, rather than address the gross shortage of taxis in Calgary, city hall’s top livery bureaucrat is threatening “grotesque fines” and even says there is a “covert operation” where these evil and uncontrolled drivers may be caught and charged for daring break Calgary’s archaic taxi laws. In Nenshi’s Calgary the truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.

Despite numbers painting a clear and hard reality that Calgary has a desperate shortage of taxis, Calgary’s city council still inexplicably continues to make excuses rather than pursue the rather simple and obvious solution of just issuing more damned licenses. Councilor Shane (Mr. Flipflop) Keating has spoken of a bizarre concept of temporarily deputizing drivers at peak times while most of the rest of council has stayed oddly silent on this issue.

Mayor Nenshi has gotten outright belligerent. A person innocently tweeted him to ask about this circumstance and got the arrogant and snotty response from Nenshi pictured below.


It’s just snowstorms Nenshi? Don’t recall many of them during Stampede or summer concerts. People should really expect at least some courtesy when they ask our mayor on a real and pressing city issue.

Why is it so complicated to simply release more licenses? Why are taxis so special and coddled as opposed to other businesses? Do we regulate how many restaurants per capita Calgary has? Car dealerships? Jewelers?

Excuses abound from Calgary’s city council. Even St. Nenshi has laid out the rather weak excuse that Calgary has a dispatch problem and suggests that changes to license regulations are needed rather than admit that we have a shortage of cabs.

The numbers make the fact undeniable (despite Calgary City Council’s denials).  CALGARY HAS A TAXI SHORTAGE!!!!

Let’s look at the simple numbers here. In 1986 Calgary had 1311 taxis servicing a population of 640,000 making a taxi to person ratio of 1-488. Today Calgary has about 1500 taxis (city just added 55 precious new licenses) servicing nearly 1,150,000 people making a taxi to person ratio of 1-767. While the city population has nearly doubled, the number of taxis allowed has grown by less than 15%! If we are to insist on treating taxis like some special, precious commodity that needs such direct management we should at least increase the numbers to reflect population growth.

The density obsessed in Calgary’s city hall love to try and point to New York City as some sort of density paradise where people eschew cars. Well in New York City the cab ratio is about 1 for every 159 people. That ratio goes to 1-117 in Manhattan. That is around 650% more taxis per capita than we have in Calgary. How do they expect people to quit using personal vehicles when city council insists on strangling transportation alternatives? I assure you, folks are not flocking to the damned bike lanes in January.

How much longer do we need to see these headlines before our oddly silent city council will act on this very simple problem?

Temporary taxi stand idea aims to alleviate Stampede travel headaches (the stands were scrapped shortly afterwards and were an utter failure)

Excuses keep coming for Calgary’s taxi ‘service’ even when the cabs themselves clearly aren’t.

People had three hour waits for taxis at Calgary’s airport last week and many resorted to renting cars in desperation. While Calgary City Hall spends $500,000 on idiotic blue ring lightpost “art” in order to make us “world class”, we can’t apparently get our visitors out of the airport. While there may be outright dozens of folks drawn to visit our fine “Peace Bridge”, I can assure you that thousands of visitors got a bad taste in their mouths as their first impression of Calgary was waiting for hours to get out of the airport. World class indeed.

City addresses cab shortage concerns with the start of Ramadan

Yes, rather than address the shortage by putting more taxis on the street, the city erected a prayer tent for drivers. Brilliant.

Calgary cabbies buck bylaw, ignore customer calls a third of the time. Bottom line here is that taxi drivers are taking advantage of the critical cab shortage. They are purposely ignoring short trips from dispatch in order to cherry pick the more lucrative ones. The consumer as always loses.

Want a taxi New Year’s? One public official says… ‘Give up!’

The above advice applies to Flames games, concerts, Stampede of course, pretty much any last call on a weekend or any other time that more than an average number of people may want a taxi. You are not advised to wait a little longer, you are advised that it is hopeless.

The bottom line is that Calgary has a critical shortage of taxis. The next time a city official whether elected or not tries to claim otherwise, call bullshit on them and point them here. This is a simple problem with a simple solution.

With the vigor that many in city hall put into protecting the broken status quo in taxi management in Calgary, one is forced to wonder just who’s palms are getting greased here. To go to the point of sting operations for possible illegal operators? Unreal.

Calgary needs more taxis! Nothing less will address this chronic issue.

Are taxis an essential service?

 It would seem that taxis in Calgary are indeed some sort of essential service considering how regulated and controlled they are.

 If anybody has tried to get a taxi in Calgary during peak hours they clearly understand how dismally our taxi industry is failing us. If you are indeed lucky enough to get through to a dispatcher on your first call, you can often look forward to being told that you have an exceedingly long wait for a cab (if indeed the cab shows up at all). 

 Much of the reason for this terrible service stems from the very strictly limitted number of cab licenses in the city of Calgary. We have a taxi commission in Calgary that seems to do little more than meet on a regular basis and try to find reasons to justify the starving of cab licenses from Calgary consumers.

 Here we can see where the council has kindly decided that the booming city of Calgary is worthy of 100 new taxi licenses in 2006.  

 Now look at the gauntlet that has to be run should one decide to apply for one of these rare and valuable licenses.

A) Each applicant for the Accessible and Regular TPL selection process must:

  1. hold a valid and current Taxi Driver’s Licence (TDL);
  2. not currently hold an TPL;
  3. pay a non-refundable application fee of $100 to cover the cost of administering the distribution of licences; and

B) Each selected applicant of the Regular Class TPL must:            

  1. Prove they have been driving in the taxi industry in Calgary a minimum of 1500 hours within the immediate past 12 consecutive months from the date of the selection of their name;
  2. Have a satisfactory record of taxi service in the industry and with Livery Transport Services; and
  3. Pay a new non-refundable TPL fee of $5,000; 


So in this process of “random” selection, assuming a person fits that long list of qualifications to enter the draw has to pay a non-refundable $100 fee. Should the applicant be lucky enough to be one of the select few pulled out of the hat, they then will pay a non-refundable fee of $5,000????


 So much for leaving room for the little guy.


 A cottage industry for these rare and valuable taxi licenses has sprung up now.


 How does this impact tourisim in Calgary? How many bad experiences have business and recreational travellers had in wasting their time away in hopes of getting a cab? How many people have given up on waiting for a late-night cab and decided to take the risk of driving while impaired?


 Now this enforced strangling of service certainly helps the car rental market in Calgary and the industry of those companies that own the few licenses that there are. Calgary consumers however are losing in a big way.


 What is so special about taxis that they need all this regulation? I truly am stumped here.


 I understand a degree of regulation. Drivers should be licensed for driving taxis and their vehicles should have a standard of safety to pass before taking passengers. Aside from that, why do we need all this regulation? Do we have a board that issues and limits licencing for grocery stores? Hardware stores? Comic book stores? Not that I know of.


 Calgary is a booming city and is adjusting to becoming a center of business worldwide. It is beyond time that we rid ourselves of this idiotic over-regulation and treat taxis as the business that they are in the free market. Our current system and service is nothing less than an embarrassment.