Cobourg’s Taxi Regulations to be Updated

In February 2019, Cobourg Council decided to look at the regulations/By-Laws governing Taxis to see if complaints by users and Taxi owners could be resolved.  Issues included availability of accessible cabs, fares not sufficient to encourage new taxis, the cap on the number of taxis was too low and there was no provision for Uber, Lyft and similar services. (The Town calls these Transportation Network Companies – TNCs).  Although the cap was quickly removed, it was felt that input from cab-owners, cab-drivers and taxi users was needed before further changes were made.  So from September 16, 2019 until October 11, 2019, an online survey was conducted that got input from 116 Citizens, 4 Taxicab Owners and 3 Taxicab Drivers but no response from TNC’s.  That’s probably because Uber et al do not provide service in Cobourg although there have been some rides that originated outside Cobourg.

Taxi-cab-bylawAt Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Council will be asked to authorize preparation of By-Laws to make some changes to be prepared when TNCs come to Cobourg and to allow for slightly higher and less restrictive fares.  There is no easy answer to the provision of accessible cabs.

Accessible cabs

Staff report:

Currently the Town of Cobourg has eleven (11) taxicabs licensed between four (4) different Companies operating within the Town of Cobourg. The Town currently does not have any on-demand accessible taxicabs licensed or available with the Town. Throughout 2019, there was one (1) inquiry for an Accessible Taxicab Application, but since the time the application was offered, the application has been abandoned by the Applicant.

Possible solutions include requiring that (e.g.) if a company has more than five cabs, then one must be accessible; another possibility is providing some kind of financial incentive.  But it’s noted that currently no cab company has five or more cabs (see list below).  Financial incentives such as waiving fees for accessible cabs plus some type of subsidy would need to be discussed and approved by Council.

Regulation of TNCs

The Staff report includes a long discussion of TNCs and what the issues might be.  Although it’s not yet spelled out since by-Laws have not yet been written, the intent seems to be to regulate TNCs with similar rules to regular Taxis although not for fares.  These regulations would be similar to those used by other Towns.

Taxi Fares

Current Fares

  Type of Taxi Fare Rate
1. Pick-Up Charge $4.75
2. Pick-Up Charge (Senior Rate) $4.25
3. Meter Charge .35cents 1/5 km ($1.75/km)
4. Meter Charge (Senior Rate) .25cents 1/5 km ($1.25/km)
5. Stops During Trip $1.50 per stop
6. Waiting Times at Stops $0.75 per min after 2mins
7. Parcel Unloading Charge $0.75 per min after 2mins
8. Destination Waiting Charge $0.75 per min for waiting at final destination

Below is the Proposed Taxi Fare Structure beginning in 2020:

  Type of Taxi Fare Rate
1. Pick-Up Charge $4.75
2. Meter Charge $1.75 per km
3. Waiting/Running time while under engagement $0.75 per minute, Meter activated only when vehicle is travelling below 26km per hour or stopped.

New proposed Discount for Seniors is 10% rather than a separate fare amount.

These changes plus other proposed regulation changes will help taxi owners – see the full report in links below.

Also mentioned in the Staff report is the use of Uber by Innisfil to provide Transit service.  Staff asks Council for direction as to whether that idea should be studied.

For the Record, according to the Town, currently licensed in Cobourg are the following companies:

A1 Taxi – 905-372-4449 – 4 cabs licensed
Cobourg Cab – 905-373-9449 – 3 cabs licensed
First Choice – 905-375-8816 – 2 cabs licensed
Ganaraska Taxi – 289-829-3636 – 2 cabs licensed

Addendum – 28 January 2020

At the Council meeting, Councillor Emily Chorley asked if the rates were now enough to make the taxi business viable. Town Clerk Brent Larmer replied that the taxi companies are happy with the revised rates. There are two differences:

    1. Whenever traffic is slow (less than 20 km/hr) or stopped at traffic lights, the meters will now automatically record the per minute rate. This will mean a noticeable increase in fares. One effect is that the fare between two points will not always be the same since it will depend on traffic.
    2. Seniors will no longer have different rates but instead will get a 10% discount but only for fares more than $10.

Brent said that fares are competitive compared to other Towns.

Council approved proceeding with the new rates and a Bylaw will come to Council shortly to approve the rates.

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5 February 2020 11:03 am

The reason you pay for stops etc. is all the regulations taxi companies are legislated to follow. UBER does not need to follow these. UBER drivers and cabs operate with little oversight. Yes there are many who take UBER without incident but continue to read where it operates. There are many incidents of UBER placing their passenger in danger. Up to the person which service – some like to play Russian Roulette – not me.

28 January 2020 7:59 am

I take Ubers in a lot of cities. Never had a bad experience. Wish we had Uber here in Cobourg. Sick of waiting over an hour for a cab on a Saturday night. If you want folk to get home safely then let’s do something about the taxi services!

Miriam Mutton
27 January 2020 8:48 am

I read in the staff report something about tire tread on taxi type vehicles used to transport the public … make that mandatory snow and ice tires.
And, it is concerning that Innisfil, a community which has used the Uber service model (a service model that goes so far over the municipal budget ride restrictions have been put in place), reports there were no accessible vehicle users during 2017 and 2018. What service did people with mobility challenges use and do we have that option here?
And in these times of a sizable aging population, many with cognitive issues, being able to recognize the driver and a clearly marked vehicle is important.

Reply to  Miriam Mutton
27 January 2020 1:01 pm

Having spoken with one of the past taxi service providers, who abandoned the business because of an absence of profitability, I suspect it will be very difficult to find a provider that will meet every service need in Cobourg within the fee structure suggested. For the specialty needs that you have outlined the Town will likely have to go to a specialty provider(s) and allow them to price at a specialty rate. Alternatively, the Town can go into that business as an augmentation of the bus service. Not optimistic as to how that strategy would pan out.

Reply to  MCGA
27 January 2020 2:04 pm

How about the current base price of about $160 for a ride less than 10km if you need specialized transport service, like a ride home after being discharged from the hospital? I hope some coordination will lead to a less costly service for local residents.

Reply to  MiriamM
28 January 2020 12:39 am

If the $160 was adequate to compensate for the cost of: vehicle, driver, fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc. than there would be a number of suppliers lining up to deliver the service. That apparently is not the case. The free market allows both the buyer and seller to reach an agreement to provide a service at a specific price. This system does not do that and, as a result, the need likely will not be met.

Reply to  MCGA
28 January 2020 9:02 am

Not necessarily. If there is any doubt that the ‘consumer’ base may not support the service or product indefinitely, or for a reliable/identifiable period of time, the cost of providing the service may be deemed to be not a good ‘investment’. “Free Market: an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.” If this definition still stands, it suggests the participants in the negotiation are equals or nearly so.

Reply to  MiriamM
28 January 2020 9:56 am

The buyer and seller/provider are equal in as much as one has the cash, the other, the product. The exchange of those only occurs when there is agreement between the two parties. If no meeting of the minds, no sale. And, if the prospective seller (as investor) concludes that there will be an inadequate number of buyers at a price that affords ROI they will not invest and offer the product or service in the first place. The key to success: “Find a need and fill it.” BUT, at a price and with a volume that provides positive ROI. Do you concur Old Sailor?

Gary McLean
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
29 January 2020 9:18 pm

Join the discussion – just start typing here. Be sure to use your real email address…

Gary McLean
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
29 January 2020 10:01 pm

As the original after hours accessible wheelchair service provider & for hire accessible taxi service in Cobourg for 5 1/2 years you, Miriam Mutton should remember clearly as well as former mayor Brocanier & Deputy Mayor Stan Frost that you all voted to award the new contract to the lowest bidder (BTS Transportation) that wasn’t even a taxi company and the bid was so low that they were most likely operating lower than the cost to provide the service. After being informed what would happen it got shoved through anyway. I ran my 2 accessible vehicles to their life’s end only for the for hire accessible taxi service then took them out of service. They say hindsight is 20/20. Well, being cheap was NOT the way to go. Councilors NOT supporting local business is shameful. It is the people that NEED the service that are the real losers in all of this past cheapness. We could have continued a good thing but unfortunately it is now too late to revive what we had. I really hope that our newest council will open their eyes and ears and pay more attention to the voices of experience of local business owners. If the town really wants a taxi company to show any interest in investing in an accessible taxi service then listen up. The only way for it to survive is by maybe having a bi-law in place that would guarantee that the RFP for the taxi contract be awarded to a Cobourg licensed taxi service, not another bus service as it was originally meant to be at a reasonable hourly rate to provide the Door to Door accessible service instead of the Curb to Curb services that people are talking about as it was originally meant to be. Remember that someday… Read more »

Reply to  Gary McLean
29 January 2020 10:52 pm

Thanks for bringing the topic up. Current Council should ask about all information concerning previous and current accessible transportation services. It may help inform their decision-making in finding the best combination of services, such as public transportation like the Town’s Wheels bus and publicly subsidized private services like your model or Innisfil’s Uber but with accessible vehicles.

26 January 2020 4:45 pm

Sorry for being off topic here, but with Coronavirus in the news, is there anyone in the medical/tourist profession in Cobourg that is currently doing a study on how many people in our town visited China during the recent holiday season and how many are currently/recently visiting from China to our town. We should be cautious in this current situation.

26 January 2020 1:55 pm

Here is one of those times the free market should dictate the price and process. There is little argument that the taxi service in Town is inadequate. 11 licenses, with only a portion of the cabs on the road at any given time, is a recipe for delays and failed pickups. Discard the license process and invite the TNCs to do their thing based upon a posted (on the internet) market rate. The consumer gets to decide if they are a buyer and at what price. The cab driver gets to sell their service at a price that earns a living. The Town does not tell the retail stores and fast food restaurants what they can charge. Why should the cab business be treated differently?

Reply to  MCGA
26 January 2020 5:25 pm

Agree, TNC’s like Uber show price up front. No surprises. Feedback from customers and drivers are encouraged and negative feedback does get results. Municipal taxi licensing has been a failure and quite frankly don’t know why a municipality even steps into that minefield. Uber is now recognized by most companies as their preferred employee transport rather than cabs.

Old Sailor
Reply to  MCGA
26 January 2020 6:15 pm

MCGA, for what it is worth my son lives in the east end of Toronto – east of the DVP – and works in the downtown core. He takes Uber to work every morning. Instead of waiting for and taking the jammed streetcars . And he walks home most nights after work – about 5km.For my son Uber is clean, reasonably priced, on time and reliable. Wish we had that kind of service in Northumberland. Every local “Go to the Airport Cab” I have seen looks like the last time it was washed was the day it was purchased.

Reply to  Old Sailor
27 January 2020 8:17 am

“Every local “Go to the Airport Cab” I have seen looks like the last time it was washed was the day it was purchased.”

Not true, the last taxi to the airport we took was cleaner than my car! Nasty comment!

Reply to  ben
27 January 2020 12:45 pm

Certainly true in my unpleasant experience. Grubby cabs seem to be the norm around here. And scarce in the bargain.

Reply to  ben
27 January 2020 1:15 pm

Not nasty if it was true.
You got a clean one, Old Sailor got dirty ones. I believe both of you.

Small Town Lover
26 January 2020 9:32 am

I must say I find the charges a bit confusing. So let me get this straight. I get into a cab, they start the meter, i tell them to stop and pick up a friend, meter is still running, they charge $1.50 extra for stopping , my friend takes 3 minutes to get in and another 75 cents is charged for that extra minute? I have no idea what the 75 cent per minute final destination charge is.
There have been so many times we have had to wait more than 30 minutes or more for a cab that was promised to be here in 10, yet we are charged if the cab has to wait more than 2 minutes for us. I hope the cleanliness of these vehicles will be addressed as well because there are a lot of very unpleasant ones out there.

Reply to  Small Town Lover
26 January 2020 5:42 pm

You basically have it.

Stopping somewhere on the way is $1.50 which gets you 2 minutes of stopping mid-trip for whatever reason. Then it’s 0.75/minute after that.

The waiting at final destination charge is for if you arrive at your destination and say…want to sit in the cab because it’s raining out and you’re waiting for somebody else to arrive, or similar. It’s the same charge as stopping anywhere else, just without the baked charge for 2 minutes a mid-trip stop includes.

26 January 2020 8:33 am

and what of the Towns insurance obligations and exposure to accident claims as a possible backer ,supporter
of such operations . Does the Town that licences these operations not have some responsibility and an obligation to ensure the Taxi vehicles are clean , functional and safe —- I understand that there was recent accident involving 1 of these cab Cos.
and the Damaged party I assume is the passenger is still unresolved ?