INNISFAIL – Weary of dealing with a shortage of taxis and transportation options in the community, town council has given the green light to a full-scale administration rewrite of the longstanding Taxi Bylaw.
It will now be called the Vehicle for Hire Bylaw, with its new provisions and transportation options effective immediately.
The new bylaw, which was unanimously passed by town council with an amendment on Sept. 25, was introduced at council’s regular meeting by Erica Vickers, the Town of Innisfail’s director of corporate services.
Vickers reminded council that administration had asked council for direction on June 5 for an updated Taxi Bylaw.
In her report to council Vickers said it was decided brokerage licence fees should be removed from the new bylaw entirely and changed to the requirement for a valid business licence for taxi companies, transportation networks (Uber/Lyft), designated driver businesses, independent driver owners and limousine companies.
“Administration felt this was appropriate as all businesses will be treated equally under this bylaw,” said Vickers in her report to council.
Provisions from the past Taxi Bylaw that have been removed going forward is the requirement of a taxi plate, rates taxis are required to charge customers, signage/markings displayed on taxis, requirement to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and taxi licence limits.
As for the cost, the licence fees for vehicle for hire and designated driver operators are both $50. Licences for both will be issued annually to ensure the drivers and their vehicles comply with community safety needs.
Requirements for licence approval for both include a completed application form, proof of insurance to operate the motor vehicle, abstract of applicant’s driving record, their photograph, criminal record check, and mechanical inspection for just vehicle for hire drivers as designated drivers are using customer vehicles and not their own.
Vehicle for hire applicants must provide proof of a valid provincial operator’s licence that meets all requirements for driving a vehicle for hire in the province of Alberta.
In Innisfail, a vehicle for hire service covers taxis, limousines - anyone in the transportation network like Uber and Lyft, as well as independent drivers using their personal vehicles.
The centre piece of the new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw is the introduction of the designated driver service; designed to transport customers in their own vehicles from one place in town to any other in return for a fee, and then have a second driver follow them in their vehicle, pick up the driver and take them back to the business.
To get a designated driver licence there are several requirements, including entering into a written agreement with the owner of the motor vehicle on the fee to be charged, and ensuring the owner and any passengers enter and exit the vehicle at the same time and location.
However, the new designated driver service was put to a serious test by council members, notably from Coun. Janice Wing who wanted to know what happens to a group of people picked up by the designated driver after they are all dropped off at the same location.
“A driver in Red Deer takes every single person in the vehicle home to their own respective houses. I'm just curious about how we get that group of people home,” said Wing. “We don't have a lot of other options in Innisfail. It's not like I can have six people come into my house and they can all phone a cab and go home.
“This is really, truly at this point in time their one and only way to get home,” she added. “I would like to see this bylaw amended to give the designated driver company the flexibility of what model they might use.”
Vickers said the new bylaw could be amended to include multiple stops if council desired but added there could be a “downside” for the designated driver operator’s business design in terms of fee calculation.
“It would just be harder for that service to provide a fee calculation,” said Vickers. “Maybe it'll be worded that the owner of the vehicle must be dropped off last and all other parties, as they're the ones who are expected to make payment, deal with it afterwards.”
Council passed the new bylaw after three readings with the amendment to include multiple stops for the designated driver.
With the new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw approved administration is notifying current licence holders of the change.