Trying to get a cab in Vancouver can be an exercise in frustration. But if you try to get a cab during peak times, watch out -- it might not happen at all.

To test just how bad taxi service in Vancouver actually is, CTV News crews in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver went out in the entertainment district of each city on a Friday night, just as the bars were closing.

Reporters tried to flag down cabs, and then recorded how long it took. Here's what we found:

1:30 a.m.:

Vancouver: Several cabs passed by in Gastown, downtown Vancouver, on a Friday night in January, in front of a busy restaurant and nightclub. All of them are full. Since flagging a cab didn't seem to work, CTV News calls for cab. After 18 minutes they call again.

Montreal: CTV crews find it takes only seconds to get a cab.

Toronto: It took just eight seconds. In that city, the streets are choked with cabs.

Calgary: Getting a taxi is not a problem at all. Again, it took seconds.

1:45 a.m.:

Vancouver: CTV has been waiting 15 minutes -- and no cab will pull over.

1:54 a.m.:

Vancouver: 24 minutes and still no cab. CTV News is still waiting. Groups of men driving by are offering rides.

3 a.m.:

Vancouver: CTV News never got a cab.

One woman waiting along with us to get home from work considered walking towards the downtown eastside, a notoriously unsafe neighbourhood. Luckily, before she does that, a cab stops. For her, it took 23 minutes and 40 seconds.

It's a cab crisis.

And even though the B.C. Government approved another 111 cab licenses last year -- 588 cabs in Vancouver is clearly not enough.

Insp. Rollie Woods of the Vancouver Police says there are consistently not enough cabs in the city.

"For the last four months since I've been a commander down here," he said. "It's been the same consistent message, problems with cabs, no cabs, no cabs, no cabs."

Perhaps the answer lies in the numbers. In Montreal, there is one cab for every 419 people. In Toronto, there is one cab for every 536 people. While in Calgary, a city of a million people, there is one cab for every 709 people.

Vancouver has the lowest ratio: nearly 1100 people are fighting for one cab.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon says the CTV News story is "very compelling" evidence of a problem in Vancouver.

Where the cabs are -- and why Vancouver rates so poorly in our test -- will be examined tomorrow in the second part of our taxi series.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington