A smiling man stands next to a taxi on a sunny day. The car is a silver sedan with a taxi roof light. It's parked along Young Street in the Hydrstone.
Dave Buffett, president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association, in 2020. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The first increase to taxi fares in a decade could help the city’s drivers stay on the road, according to the president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association.

In a report coming to Halifax regional council on Tuesday, Andrea MacDonald, HRM’s acting director of buildings and compliance, wrote that the municipality hasn’t raised taxi fares since October 2012 and fares here are below average compared to other cities across Canada.

MacDonald is recommending a 16.1% average increase to cab fares, with most components of the fare, including the initial charge, the per-kilometre fee, and the hourly limousine and cruise ship passenger rates, going up.

Dave Buffett, president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association, said the increase will make a difference for drivers.

“It’s very necessary,” Buffett said.

Buffett said he talked to a driver this week who’s declaring bankruptcy.

“The pandemic drove us straight into the ground,” Buffett said. “And I would describe HRM taxi drivers — and probably right across the country or perhaps around the world — as hanging on the edge of a cliff by our fingers.”

Gas prices aren’t helping either, although Casino Taxi is currently charging an extra $1.30 per trip, which will end when fares rise.

“We’re noticing that we have a lot less money at the end of the day for the basic needs,” Buffett said.

The fare increase won’t completely offset gas prices or inflation, but it will make a difference.

“We’re not going to suddenly be riding high and saying, ‘Wow, what relief,’ but it’ll definitely make a positive impact on our livelihood,” Buffett said.

MacDonald weighed two methods of raising the fare: a “blended rate” increase where all components of the fare rise equally, or a non-blended increase where one component is raised disproportionately to the others.

After consultation, MacDonald landed on the non-blended increase. That option “front loads the adjustment on a percentage basis to the initial starting charge (drop rate), while applying a lower percentage increase to the distance charge,” MacDonald wrote.

“This will allow longer run trips to remain somewhat competitive, while ensuring the unpaid work that is a component of every fare is recouped to the extent possible.”

In other words, the cost of short trips will increase at a higher rate than long trips.

The chart below shows the options, with the non-blended rate increase called Option #1 and the blended increase Option #2.

The row in the first column is "Initial Charge "Drop Rate.'" Current is $3.20. Option #1 is $.70/up to 142.8m. Option #2 is $4.00/up to 142.8 m. The second row is "Per Km Charge." Current: $1.69. Option #1: $1.75. Option #2: $1.96. The third row is "Incremental Level." Current: $0.13 for 76.7 meters. Option #1: $0.25 for 142.8m. Option #2: $0.28 for 142.8m. Fourth row is "Wait time." Current: $26.80. Option #1 and #2: $30. Fifth row is Taxi Hourly Rate. Current: $32.40. Options #1 and #2: Remove. Sixth row is "Limousine Hourly Rate." Current: $64.80. Option #1: $75.23. Option #2: $76.20. Seventh and final row is "Cruise Ship Passenger Hourly Rate." Current: $50.75. Option #1: 58.92. Option #2: $59.68.
A chart comparing the increase in fare components under Option #1 (the recommended option) and Option #2. — Screenshot/HRM

And this one shows the cost of the increase under Option #1 for different trips:

The first column is distance. The first row is 3km. Current fare: $8.14. Option #1 fare: $9.70. Increase: $1.56. Percentage increase: 19.16%. The second row is 5km. Current fare: $11.52. Option #1 fare: $13.20. Increase: $1.68. Percentage increase: 14.58%. The third row is 10km. Current fare: $19.97. Option #1 fare: $21.92. Increase: $1.99. Percentage increase 9.96%. The fourth and final row is 25km. Current fare: $45.32. Option #1 fare: $48.22. Increase: $2.90. Percentage increase: 6.4%.
A chart showing the increase in fares under Option #1. — Screenshot/HRM

Buffett is in favour of the recommended option because it will keep the price down on the longer trips.

“We wanted to still be affordable,” Buffett said. “And some of the longer runs, we’ve got to keep it manageable. The majority of what we do is under $10. But, you know, every night or every day, we get a few runs that are in the $20 range and we don’t want to price ourselves out of business.”

Buffett said he expects an initial chilling effect, where passengers will stay away from taxis after hearing about the increase, “but that’ll be short-lived.”

Council meets virtually at 1pm on Tuesday.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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