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Corner Brook cab company worries fare hike may drive away business

Dispatcher Ed Gaudett handles another call in the nerve centre that is the stand of Star Taxi in Corner Brook.
Dispatcher Ed Gaudett handles another call in the nerve centre that is the stand of Star Taxi in Corner Brook. - Gary Kean

It’s going to cost more to ride in a taxi in Corner Brook, but one local company says a fare hike is not what the business needs.
Three of the city’s cab companies, Star Taxi, City Cabs and Corner Taxi, asked for the increase. The City of Corner Brook approved the request and set the increased between 20 and 24 per cent.
The increases came into effect Sept. 1.
The companies told the city taxi rates have not kept pace with rising costs associated with running their business. They named significant increases to their insurance, fuel, employee rates, and new regulatory requirements that have associated costs.
The increase approved by city council marks the first taxi rate increase in Corner Brook since 2008.
Anthony Basha, who owns Birchy Cabs, said it’s true operational costs have gone up and the increased fares may ultimately help each company’s bottom line.
But he does not support the hikes.
“It’s not going to help us any,” said Basha. “It’s only going to promote the push for Uber to be here. It’s not here now, but eventually you will see it.”
Uber is a service found in larger cities where people can order rides from private cars, usually for cheaper than a regulated taxi fare. It has yet to be established in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We’re just going to drive customers away by putting prices up,” said Basha.
He said the cab industry really needs lower insurance rates. He said the average cab driver is paying as much as $500 per month, not to mention licensing, fees associated with working for a cab company, and fuel costs.

A cab leaves for a trip from the Star Taxi stand on West Street in Corner Brook.
A cab leaves for a trip from the Star Taxi stand on West Street in Corner Brook.


In addition, drivers are now expected to complete hospitality course and produce a certificate of conduct, which are usually out-of-pocket expenses
“We’ve seen hardly any new drivers in the last year,” said Basha. “Some have quit because there are so many regulations and it’s too much hassle to get a taxi license for something that works out to only be a minimum wage job.”
Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons said the city has taken measures such as enforcing mandatory background checks, licensing requirements and tourism training in an effort to professionalize the industry. He said the increases were deemed necessary by the majority of the cab companies in the city because of the rising operating costs in recent years.
“It’s very difficult, given the nature of insurance rates and things like that, to make a go of it,” the mayor said during the public meeting. “That’s why we were petitioned to increase these rates.”
Noel Basha owns City Cabs. He said the increases are definitely needed, but agrees there are many other challenges to the taxi business that need to be addressed.
“No one will go get their licence these days because it’s too expensive to operate,” he said.
He claims some of the costs involved in acquiring a taxi licence are just cash grabs by government.
Closer to home, Basha said driving cabs in Corner Brook is hard on vehicles because of the many hills and the rough state of many of its roads. He said the cost of the wear and tear on vehicles and tires in an environment like Corner Brook has to be considered.
Whether or not fare increases will drive customers away, Basha said that remains to be seen.
“Who knows?” he said. “It might just be good for the city buses.”

What it will cost to get a cab in Corner Brook now:
- Meter drop rate: $4.13
- For each 0.125 kilometre, or part thereof: $0.26
- For each additional kilometer: $2.11
- Waiting time rate, per hour: $34.51
- Handling of packages: $1
* Between 6 p.m. Dec. 24 and 8 a.m. Dec. 27 and between 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and 8 a.m. Jan. 2, an additional fare of $2 may be charged.
 
- Taxicab driving licence fee: $25 per year
- Taxicab operating licence fee: $50 per year
Source: City of Corner Brook

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