CORNER BROOK Robert Leamon says a rise in taxi rates is further troubling to students because of an inadequate transit system.
The president of the Grenfell Campus Student Union sent a letter to council on behalf of students in opposition to a proposed increase to cab fares and related charges.
Increases for taxi operators was approved at Monday evening’s public meeting of council, the same time it was also approved that the reduced summer transit schedule would be extended another month.
Leamon was not happy to see either move by council. He said the taxi rate increases sends a message to the community that the opposition was not considered.
“The students feel ignored about that,” he said. “It is also troubling, at a time when they announced, in September, they are actually going to be continuing with the summer transit schedule.”
Coun. Priscilla Boutcher said during the meeting that students had failed the city in its attempts to increase ridership aboard the bus. Many of the changes were geared toward students, and little increases were experienced.
Leamon said it was the system, in fact, that failed the students, and the community.
“When they talked about implementing this trial system there were a number of promises that were made,” he said. “Some of those were moved forward on, including the increased hours, but not everything was.
“Not that I expect everything to just magically come all at once, but there should have been actions on several fronts as opposed to increasing the hours.”
The city did embark on a promotional campaign to increase ridership and introduced real-time information to computers and cellphones.
Leamon said knowledge about accessing the scheduling and routes was an issue, as well as poor efficiency of the various routes.
The city is undertaking a survey to gauge input on the transit system, and the student union president is anxious to see its results.
Meanwhile, council approved an increase of the taxi metre rate to $3.32, a raise to the additional kilometre rate to $1.76, and an increase wait time per hour rate to $28.76. These were lower than requested by operators.
The city also denied requests to charge a premium of $3 for those who request a van, and to be able to raise the additional charge during Christmas period from $2 to $3.
Leamon was not supportive of the increases. He said it is a hindrance to the limited budgets of students — and others in the community with fixed incomes — and is another factor leading to increased debt loads. There is no other efficient or adequate alternative to transportation for many students, he said.
Coun. Leo Bruce — who said the rates were brought in line with other municipalities in the province — said the increases were a compromise between the request from taxi operators and what council and staff felt was appropriate for customers.
“I had no problem granting them the increase on most things they asked for,” he said. “When you are looking at things like this you have to think about protecting the consumer. There is a fine line when it comes to an expense on any item. Once you cross that line, I think it would hurt their business.”
It was the first increase since 2008.
Taxi owners in the city were contacted for comment, none of whom returned messages.