By Jessica Lovell
After last call when it’s time for late-night revellers to get out of downtown, streets can become a battleground as people try to flag down taxis.
“The board has received some complaints about taxi service and the availability of taxi service,” Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin told members of the Downtown Nightlife Task Force at a Tuesday morning meeting.The Guelph Police Services Board, which oversees the city’s taxicab bylaw, will be looking at the issue at an upcoming meeting, he said.
The issue of transportation out of the downtown was raised as the task force discussed its successes at the end of the University of Guelph semester, as well as ongoing plans for next fall.
One successful task force initiative – the late night bus service provided by the university’s Central Student Association – had been notably absent this past Monday night.
It was the last day of exams and the warm weather combined to make it a busy night in the downtown. However, the late night bus service had already ended for the semester.
Disturbances tend to happen when people linger in the downtown, which is why a focus of the task force has always been to move people out of the downtown efficiently, Larkin said.
To make this happen in the fall, “we believe taxi stands are a viable option,” said Larkin.
Guelph has had some incidents where students were hit by cars and seriously injured while trying to flag down taxis, and taxi stands are one effort to prevent such situations, he said.
But the legitimate cabs that would use the taxi stands are not the only ones operating downtown late at night.
Police have recently had to crack down on “gypsy cabs,” Larkin said, noting “we have had a number of complaints.”
These unlicensed cabs could be driven by anyone who is willing to shuttle people around to make a quick buck, under the table.
They are of genuine concern to police, because the cars are not regulated the same way cabs are, said Larkin. They might not have proper insurance or the vehicles might not be safe, for example, he said.
“The reason for the taxi bylaw is to ensure the safety of patrons,” he said.
The goal is not to make it difficult for people who want to operate legitimate taxi services in the city to do so, he added.
Taxi customers may eventually find it a little easier to find a cab, with a new company that recently set up shop in town.
Guelph Taxi recently opened on Grange Road, becoming the third taxi company operating in the city.
Currently, the company offers accessible taxis only, as the police services board offers an unlimited number of licences for cabs that service people with mobility issues, said Larkin.
After 12 months, the company will have the option of applying to operate regular taxis too, he said.
By Jessica Lovell