Montreal leads the way with great taxi service

taxi on Toronto street
Why do easterners have much better access to cabs than Vancouverites?

For anyone who’s lived in Vancouver for more than a nanosecond, it doesn’t take you long to realize that the city is very taxi deficient. A few years ago I naively thought hosting the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games would somehow have been the impetus to significantly improve cab service, but sadly it hasn’t. In my opinion, Vancouver remains the worst major city in Canada when it comes to being able to access a taxi.

During my frequent business trips to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, I’m always reminded of how fortunate people are out there when it comes to this alternate mode of transportation. Recently on a warm spring-like evening in Montreal, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I traveled through the downtown core. On almost every street corner there were at least a half dozen empty taxis waiting to pick up passengers. Accessing a cab was as easy as just raising your arm and waving one over to you. Try doing that in Vancouver when it’s pouring rain and see how far that gets you.

When I worked at Vancouver City Hall a few years back, council directed staff to open up more licenses in order to increase the overall number of cabs on the streets. It was a significant policy decision that was quietly met with some skepticism by the industry. They were concerned that a flood of new taxis would drive down the value of the existing licenses (valued at up to $200K in some circumstances) and they’d lose a lot of dough. There was also a lot of hand wringing about whether there would be enough business for all those new drivers about to hit the road.

Taking those concerns into consideration, we forged ahead and worked with the Province of BC (who control the issuance of taxi licenses) to significantly increase the number of cabs on the road. The goal was to get this all in place in time for 2010 and to have it become one of the legacies of the Games. Yet despite this increase in access to more cabs, Vancouver still sorrowfully lags behind other cities when it comes to this vital public service. Even with the additional licenses, it still remains virtually impossible to hail a cab in this city on the best of days.

So just how do all those cab drivers in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto survive? Many earn a very low income, yet there remains an abundance of cabs to be found everywhere. I simply don’t buy the industry’s argument that the cost of living is less in these cities, therefore it’s easier for cabbies to handle all the extra competition.

Let’s be real. Toronto is no wallflower when it comes to the cost of housing, gasoline or other consumer goods. It’s a costly major city and although it is slightly cheaper to live in than Vancouver, it’s still a darn expensive place call home.

I hope that Vancouver Council seriously considers adding even more taxis to the roads of Vancouver as soon as humanly possible. And while there at it, they may also want to change some of the rules that prevent taxis from accessing HOV lanes or temporarily stopping in "no stopping" zones. In other words, the City should should treat taxis on par with buses and all other forms of public transportation. Other Canadian cities seem to have found a way to support excellent taxi service, now is the time for Vancouver to follow suit. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

– Post by Daniel

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  • “Many earn a very low income…” How many? How low? You seem not to care much about the details,but the working poor of this nation are far more numerous than the homeless or the destitute,and are barely better off than indentured servants. So long as they are there at your convenience…

  • Chris H

    I absolutely agree.
    As is the case with many issues in Vancouver, it seems as though city policy with respect to taxis is set by the cab companies themselves, to preserve profits.
    The fact is – whatever the number of cabs on the roads, taxi drivers will usually be relatively poor. If you increase their profit margin by reducing competition, the cost of a taxi medallion just goes up, so that cab drivers are now working to pay their loans rather than to earn a living.
    The city government can’t do anything to make cab-driving more profitable – nor should it try. In the end, the best they can do is allow the marketplace to function and give people good service at a good price.