Hundreds of thousands wait too long for Vancouver taxis: study
Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting too long for a taxi, and tens of thousands are wait too long for cabs to be dispatched to them each year, according to a new analysis of Vancouver dispatch data.
Some 550 customers each day wait longer than a 15-minute standard from dialing to getting into a cab – a never-before-seen number that should raise doubt over whether taxi regulators are doing their job, said study author and UBC Professor David Gillan.
“It’s disproportionately large,” Gillan told CTV News. “Vancouver’s performance is inferior to most other cities.”
The Passenger Transportation Board is a provincial watchdog that decides how many taxis can be on the road. If someone wants to get a taxi licence they must apply to the board, and those applications are usually opposed by existing taxi companies.
But no one at the PTB studies how well the industry serves customers, leaving it up to figures provided by the taxi industry to get a sense of what customers need. Gillan said he believes that’s why so few cabs are on the road right now.
“It’s almost a no-brainer,” he said. “But it’s certainly been fought for a long time by people who have a vested interest in protecting the value of their assets.
The taxi data was obtained by Otis Perrick, whose company Ripe applied to run a digital-dispatch limo service. The board rejected his application in 2013, saying “Ripe has not demonstrated evidence of unmet need.”
But Perrick said he knows people who have waited long times for a taxi – especially in the crunch time of Friday and Saturday nights. He also pointed to the fact that a taxi licence sells now for hundreds of thousands of dollars – which he said is a sign that there is a lot of money in the industry.
“The numbers just don’t add up,” he said.
For Ripe’s second application Perrick asked for the raw data on which the taxi industry was making claims that there was no need for his service.
Perrick got the data as part of his application process, and he provided it to Gillan. Gillan found that 6 per cent of the 3.3 million trips each year were “low quality service” by the standards of the Passenger Transportation Board, or about 1 in 20 trips.
Some 63,000 people waited longer than 15 minutes for taxis to be dispatched to them, and 202,000 people waited longer than 15 minutes to get into a cab.
A licence for Ripe could serve those customers without taking fares away from the existing taxi companies, Gillan said.
Gillan also called into question rounding of times and the choice of excluding longer wait times in the original taxi study.
“I think it was a real eye-opener because we’d only see information the taxi industry wanted us to see. Now we have the true numbers,” said Perrick.
Yellow Cab’s Carolyn Bauer said she doubted the figures, adding that they were commissioned by someone who would benefit by getting a licence.
“Their numbers are their numbers. We have our numbers and our numbers come nowhere near that. It’s unfortunate that Ripe is taking this approach,” she said.
There are some 704 cab licences in Vancouver according to the PTB, with 99 temporary operating permits just for Friday and Saturday. That includes 20 more wheelchair accessible cabs approved in December.
The PTB has also approved 38 new suburban cabs to come to Vancouver on Friday and Saturday, but the city of Vancouver has refused to licence those cabs, which has resulted in a major court battle.