The provincial government has increased Vancouver’s taxi fleet size drastically following years of controversy over BC’s antiquated taxi system restricting supply – despite the long waits and overwhelming demand for increased service.
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Currently, Metro Vancouver has approximately 1,500 taxis, including over 600 taxis within the City of Vancouver’s jurisdiction. But five Vancouver taxi companies will now have the Passenger Transportation Board’s permission to add 175 vehicles, including 26 wheelchair accessible taxis.
This move will effectively increase the taxi fleet size in Vancouver, where demand is greatest, by almost 30%.
“These new vehicles will go a long way to meet some of the current demand for passenger-directed vehicles and will help reduce the 45-minute wait times customers experience now,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone in a statement.
“With the busy tourist season approaching, this decision will mean that more customers will be better able to access the many amenities and sights Vancouver and surrounding area has to offer.”
Separately, a recent decision to approve 38 additional suburban taxi licenses, for taxi companies based in other municipalities in the region, supplement the major increase approved for Vancouver.
Ball now in the City of Vancouver’s court
However, local taxi companies still need to overcome one more hurdle before they can roll out more vehicles onto city streets.
The City of Vancouver would need to end its moratorium on new taxi licenses, which was imposed in early-2014 and continues today after consecutive renewals by City Council. The moratorium was implemented as a means of preventing ridesharing from entering the city, in response to concerns expressed by taxi companies.
“As the Province continues to develop the framework to create a level playing field for ride sharing to come to B.C. by the end of this year, it is now time for the City of Vancouver to move forward and approve these much-needed additional vehicles,” Stone continued.
The provincial government’s decision comes just weeks ahead of the provincial election and follows a decision approximately one month ago to permit ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in BC.
Rideshare is scheduled to enter in BC by December 2017, and the provincial government has promised to allocate $1 million to help the taxi industry develop an app to remain competitive against multinational rideshare giants.
Still not enough taxis
The provincial government’s increase still puts Metro Vancouver’s taxi fleet size far behind those of other major regions in Canada.
According to a 2014 SFU study, Metro Vancouver has 0.64 taxis for every 1,000 residents in the region. But that is about half as many compared to other major Canadian cities: Toronto (1.17), Montreal (1.34), Ottawa( 1.24), and Edmonton (1.37).
As another example, Calgary has 1.4 million fewer people than Metro Vancouver, but it virtually has the same number of taxis. Metro Vancouver’s ratio is even smaller, just 0.28 taxis per 1,000 persons, when municipal boundary rules are accounted for.
Metro Vancouver would need 1,900 more cabs to have the same ratio as Calgary.
Over the last few years during the busy holiday season from early-December to early-January, the Passenger Transportation Board granted temporary taxi licenses to help taxi companies keep up with the sharp surge in demand.