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.