Rip-offs prompt Alberni cabbie to call for pre-paid fares

An increase in fare rip-offs has prompted a United Cabs driver to call for a bylaw requiring pre-payment of taxi fares in Alberni

An increase in the number of fare rip-offs has prompted a United Cabs driver to call for a bylaw requiring mandatory pre-payment of taxi fares in Port Alberni.

Driver Paul Martin made the request in a letter to city councillors at their meeting on Oct. 15.

According to Martin, drivers are often subject to fare rip-offs, which he defines as fares taking taxi rides then not paying for the trips.

What few people realize, Martin says, is that the amount ripped off comes out of the driver’s pocket. “We are not paid an hourly rate but instead earn a percentage of the meter,” he said. “It’s really maddening and discouraging when we never know who is the next person who is going to steal from us.”

There is a process drivers can go through to deduct the unpaid fare off the top. But drivers usually end up absorbing the amount and taking the loss, he said.

Reporting the matter to police doesn’t produce anything but a report, Martin said. “I even had an officer say to me ‘We don’t have time to babysit taxi drivers’.

“If someone steals something from a store they go to jail. If someone steals from a taxi…oh well.”

The company, he said, keeps a list of known customers who owe fares. “And these are just the ones who have been reported,” he said.

Martin proposes that city council pass a bylaw making pre-payment of all taxi fares in Port Alberni mandatory.

According to Martin, Victoria and Nanaimo are examples of two such communities that have passed similar bylaws. “I believe it’s time Port Alberni does the same,” he said.

There would be issues with the city passing such a bylaw, city planner Scott Smith said.

Smith found no similar bylaw in Nanaimo, but he couldn’t confirm whether Victoria had one or not.

The city also wouldn’t have the ability to enforce the bylaw, Smith said.

As well, local government can only  craft bylaws that provincial legislation enables them to. “I’m not sure if the province would allow the city to do that,” he said.

Martin’s initiative with city council is independent from the company, said a United Cabs spokesperson. “We never discussed this at our last directors’ meeting. He’s doing it on his own and with the best intentions.”

The spokesperson, who didn’t want to give his name, was standing in for regular manager Aaron Franco, who is away and unavailable for comment.

The spokesperson couldn’t say if there are more fare rip-offs now than in the past. “It’s been a problem for as long as cabs have been around though,” he said.

Taxi companies already have legislative recourse to guard against fare-jumpers, said Jan Broocke, who is the director of the Passenger Transportation Board, an independent tribunal that licenses  taxis, limousines, shuttle vans and inter-city buses in B.C.

According to Broocke, the Passenger Transportation Act states that a driver must not refuse to transport a passenger unless the passenger refuses to pay a deposit to the driver on request.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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