New Westminster isn’t planning to put the brakes on plans to add more taxis on local streets, but believes more wheelchair-accessible vehicles are needed in the city.
Council has given three readings to a commercial vehicle amendment bylaw that would permit Royal City Taxi Ltd. and Queen City Taxi Ltd. to increase the number of vehicles in their fleets. Council will give community members a chance to comment on the proposal, which would result in an increase of 11 taxis, at an opportunity to be heard on Monday, Feb. 25.
A staff report notes that taxi companies wanting to add vehicles to their fleet must first receive approval from the Passenger Transportation Branch and then get support from local government via an amendment to the commercial vehicle bylaw. The addition of nine taxis would mean Royal City Taxi has 71 vehicles licensed in New West, while the two additional taxis requested by Queen City Taxi would bring its fleet up to 19.
“I don’t think there are enough taxi vehicles operating in New Westminster,” said Coun. Patrick Johnstone. “The wait times are long. It is often difficult to get a taxi at busy times in New Westminster, so I don’t think there are enough vehicles. But more importantly, I don’t think there are enough accessible vehicles.”
While he doesn’t want to “reduce the speed at which new vehicles are brought on board," Johnstone said he’d like the city to write to the Passenger Transportation Branch and the Minister of Transportation to remind them that the city previously requested more accessible vehicles.
“This was not something we did willy-nilly. This is something that came from our access ability advisory committee, people who do rely on the taxi system,” said Johnstone, who chairs the committee. “People with disabilities do rely on it more than other people, partly because of the unreliability of the alternative transit system we have in the city. I think we are supporting our access ability advisory committee by asking for more accessible taxies. We have already asked; we have not received.”
According to a staff report, 13 (21 per cent) of Royal City Taxi’s vehicles and four (24 per cent) of Queen City Taxi’s vehicles are wheelchair-accessible. Based on those numbers, staff were comfortable recommending council support the application.