THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay is working toward a new taxi by-law. Councillor Brian McKinnon has been leading this effort for two years. The proposed by-law is due to go before City Council for ratification very soon.
Kasper Wabinski, the CEO of Kasper Transportation asserts that there is still a lot of work that is needed before Thunder Bay City Council should pass this new by-law. Wabinski who operates Kasper Transportation has a fleet of almost forty vehicles, provides inter-community bus transportation service from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg in the west, and Longlac in the East as well as bus limo service.
The main goal of the new by-law should be enhancing public safety in Wabinski’s view.
Kasper says that there are issues in this proposal that if it isn’t amended or revised will make it far harder for taxi services like Roaches and Diamond Lacey to compete. Auxilary taxi services or unlicensed and unregulated taxi services seem in Wabinski’s view to drive under the radar.
The bylaw proposes a $2 million liability requirement. Wabinski says it should be $5 million.
He also says that insurance wise, taxi companies and his bus company have to have drivers with a minimum age of 25 years of age, while the bylaw exempts other companies offering passenger service from such a requirement.
Wabinski also states that this bylaw ignores many of the unique situations here in Thunder Bay.
These include our aging population and the lack of funding for accessible vehicles which puts the enormous expense on taxi companies which don’t earn enough of a return on investment to make it a viable business.
This also includes Thunder Bay’s urban sprawl that places hardships on companies to provide service.
Our weather is also a concern Wabinski asserts as well as how roadways like the Expressway are maintained. The use of salt and gravel impacts vehicles and their windshields.
Wabinski advocates for dash cams and says that hard-wired GPS is not as reliable in the city as it could be, so that is an issue.
Wabinski tells NetNewsLedger that, “Uride, Roaches and Kasper Transportation have agreed to come together and to re-write the proposed bylaw to make sure that all industry and safety concerns are addressed.” Wabinski asserts that “We will submit an industry-supported version for Council review”.
Asked In your opinion having read the proposed by-law, does it do enough to enhance public safety for taxi, limo service and some of the new technologies coming like Uber and other ride-sharing options? Councillor McKinnon states he believes the new proposed by-law does that.
Wabinski says that this proposal doesn’t do enough to make it safer for anyone using taxi service in Thunder Bay. He also says that the proposed by-law does not do enough to plan for the ever-evolving technology and changes in transportation.
Councillor McKinnon tells NetNewsLedger that the proposed bylaw covers the areas that Wabinski is concerned over.
Wabinski, who states he runs the largest limousine service in Thunder Bay comments that he was not consulted on this by-law, and that is one of the demonstrations that the development of this bylaw didn’t reach out far enough
Recently, the Police Services Board, which up until now has regulated the taxi industry in Thunder Bay gave permission for rates to be raised for taxi services in the city. That was the first time in a decade that the rates were raised.
It has been over two years since the efforts to change the taxi by-law started.
Speaking with taxi drivers, many are looking for a needed change too. Efforts to enhance driver safety are one of their top concerns. Taxicab drivers are frontline workers and have in recent years been the victims of criminal assaults.
NetNewsLedger has reached out to COTB officials over some of the areas that Wabinski is raising, including the precedent for an injunction against a bylaw or having a by-law drafted by industry partners. We have not received a response as yet.
Councillor Aldo Ruberto has told NetNewsLedger: “I will be declaring a conflict as I have been since this issue was brought up.”
Uride has been asked for comment but has not responded yet. When they do, those comments will be added.