Editorial: Prioritizing Taxis as Public Transit
Daniel Fontaine is a co-editor of CityCaucus.com and an active political commentator with a background in political science, writing and strategy. CityCaucus occasionally teams up with PlanningPool.com to cross-post articles of common interest… like this one, originally published here.
Should taxis be treated the same way as other public transit vehicles?
For many of us who live in major urban centres and choose not to own a vehicle (or can’t afford one), taxis are an essential form of public transit that helps us to manage our daily affairs. In my own case, our family decided years ago that we’d sell our second car and use cabs and transit to get around when necessary. Not only are we saving thousands of dollars each year in unnecessary maintenance and fuel costs, we’re also reducing our carbon footprint. I must admit that we are also lucky enough to live in a community that has 5 star taxi service (Royal City Taxi) that gets you to and from where you want to go quickly.
There are few who could argue that cabs aren’t a vital part of keeping our cities operating efficiently. They also play a big role in helping to cut our overall carbon emissions by reducing the number of vehicles we need to purchase in high density neighbourhoods. If this is the case, why do they get treated the same as the SUV your neighbour drives to work each day?
For years the Vancouver taxi industry has put forward the argument that taxis should be afforded the same treatment as buses. If they were, this would allow them permission to drive in HOV lanes during rush hour and be exempt from certain rush hour restrictions. For example, if the sign at a busy intersection says “left turn only for buses”, they too could turn left. A number of restrictions such as “no stopping” signs also wreak havoc with the taxi industry trying to pick up elderly or disabled customers.
If you recall, during the 2010 Games the taxi industry went ballistic when it was revealed that they would not be permitted into the special Olympic only lanes. The policy decision was apparently made behind closed doors with little to no industry consultation. I never did hear if it got resolved, but it did help to highlight the problem our local cabbies face when it comes to being treated as second class public transit.
In the case of Vancouver, I don’t think moving to ease restrictions on the taxi industry is a major policy leap. After all, they continually boast they want to become the greenest city in the world. Isn’t allowing taxis to be officially considered as public transit a “green” and low cost initiative that can be moved on quickly?
In addition to significantly adding more taxis onto Vancouver’s streets, City Council should put this issue on their “green” agenda. With the stroke of a pen, they could decide to make taxis quasi members of the TransLink fleet and encourage even more of us to leave our cars behind. Meanwhile, other cities should follow suit and provide taxis with the same flexibility on our roads that people driving transit buses have.
What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment!