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