HRM committee suggests changes to taxi bylaw to compete with rideshare services

Amendments would remove outdated requirements for taxi licences

Regional council’s transportation committee recommended amendments Thursday to the city’s taxi bylaw that will make it cheaper and easier to obtain a taxi licence.

“Staff have met with industry and received feedback that the current requirements to become a driver are extremely outdated, very time-consuming and costly for drivers,” said Tanya Snair.

Snair is the regional licensing supervisor for Halifax Regional Municipality. She said the amendments were intended “to ensure fairness in the process to become a taxi driver versus a driver through the TNC.”

TNCs, or transportation network companies, refer to ride-sharing services such as Uber. TNCs do not have the same licensing requirements as taxi drivers in HRM. Uber arrived in Halifax about two years ago.

Tanya Snair presented proposed amendments to a taxi licensing bylaw on Thursday.   Jeremy Hull

The amendments would remove outdated licensing requirements that other Canadian jurisdictions no longer require. Licensees would no longer require a winter driving course which never included any training in the vehicle. The amendments would remove driver knowledge exams, since GPS in vehicles has made them unnecessary. Instead, the new training would include testing on the driver’s understanding of the updated bylaw.

“This training will provide tools that will be needed to provide quality service standards to our customers,” Snair said. “This would also improve licensing times, reduce regulatory burden of taxi drivers and align with the TNC drivers.”

Snair said HRM would maintain current taxi licence testing until new training is implemented.

Her final recommendation was a request for a review of licensing fees for both taxi drivers and TNCs. Her comparison showed that taxi drivers pay about $530 more than TNC drivers for their licensing requirements.

Coun. Shawn Cleary was enthusiastic in support of the proposed amendments.

“It seems unfair that we treat one type of driver-for-hire different from another type,” Cleary said. He said he wants to make the process fair while maintaining safety standards for all drivers.

Thamer Alrashaideh, a taxi driver who works in downtown Halifax, says the proposed amendments to the bylaw are too late.

“By now it doesn’t matter for us because Uber is already here,” Alrashaideh said. He has been considering leaving the taxi business since the arrival of TNCs. He says reduced requirements for licences will flood the market with new drivers and make the problem worse. He says the city needs to regulate the number of drivers.

“They should do research. How many does the city need?” Alrashaideh said. He added that unlimited licences let part-time drivers fill the city during the peak hours that full-time drivers rely on.

Alrashaideh also said taxi businesses keep transportation dollars in the local economy.

“A taxi business is a local business,” Alrashaideh said. “We should support local businesses. We should support each other as Canadians united.”

The amendments would require approval from regional council, but now moves to the chief administrative officer to draft the official amendments.

Jeremy Hull

Jeremy Hull

Jeremy Hull writes for magazines on topics from business to energy, but he’s happiest when writing about jiu jitsu or fly fishing. Jeremy was a writer-in-residence at the Canadian Film Centre. His work is accessible at jkhull.ca.

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