Winnipeg taxi companies ask city for rate increase amid high fuel prices, inflation pressures

Winnipeggers could pay more to take a taxi if city councillors approve a proposed rate increase.

A report going to council’s public works committee on Nov. 29 recommends hiking the rates in response to rising fuel costs and other inflationary pressures, such as rising insurance costs.

If approved, the base rate for all trips would rise 20 cents to $3.95 — an increase of 5.3 per cent. The rate per kilometre would increase by 18.8 per cent, from $1.60 to $1.90, while the rate for wait times would rise five cents per minute to 57 cents, or 9.2 per cent.

The total increase would add approximately 11 per cent to the cost of a cab ride, which the report states is in line with inflation since the rate was last changed in 2018.

The proposal comes after the presidents of Winnipeg’s two biggest taxi companies, Unicity and Duffy’s, sent a letter to some councillors on the public works committee requesting the increase in August, the report said.

Although the companies are “aware of the impact a rate increase has on passengers in the community … the impact faced by the drivers providing the service also needs to be considered,” says the report by Grant Heather, the city’s vehicles for hire manager.

The report also notes that ride-hailing services like Uber, whose fares are not regulated, can adjust their rates without the city’s approval.

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes, the chair of the public works committee, shares concerns about the pressures taxi drivers face.

“No one really wants a rate increase, but if you look at the price of fuel and inflation, it’s something we need to consider,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

The report includes a comparison of taxi rates in cities across Canada, and the proposed increase would still leave Winnipeg with some of the lowest fares in country, Lukes said.

If approved, the rate increase would take effect on Dec. 16.

City officials also recommended giving a designated city employee authority to make temporary amendments to taxi meter rates, with changes limited to no more than 10 per cent of current rates. Council would need to approve any temporary increase within six months. 

Only one temporary increase would permitted per year, and only if requested by a majority of taxi licence holders and supported by available data.

City recommends on-request transit service

The public works committee will also vote next week on whether to implement an on-request service with Winnipeg Transit after a year-long pilot project.

If approved, the city would also cancel its current dial-a-ride transit (DART) service, which operates during off-peak hours and allows people to call and speak directly to the driver to arrange pickup.

In August 2021, the city launched the pilot on-request service, which allow riders to request a bus. The service uses a smartphone app that tracks buses, and real-time adjustments are made to routes as rides are requested.

Lukes said she isn’t sure if she will support the proposal at committee.

She noted that the service would cost Transit $182,000 to $192,000 more per year in each of the next four years, and would require the city to add 2.6 full-time equivalent employees. 

“I know that there’s a desire to look at having this on-request service in areas that have no service,” Lukes said.

During the pilot project, the on-request service was offered on three routes: 101 St. Amant-Plaza Drive, 102 Southdale-Island Lakes and 110 St. Boniface-Norwood.

New Flyer could get $33M zero-emission bus contract

The committee will also consider a proposal for a contract to have Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries supply 16 zero-emission buses to the city’s transit service.

The contract is with $33 million, and would be funded through the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

The buses would be a net addition to the city’s bus fleet, rather than replacements for existing buses, the report says.

They would also allow the city to collect data to as it decides on next steps toward electrifying its fleet. 

Earlier this year, all three levels of government announced Winnipeg Transit would receive a total of about $509 million to add 100 new electric buses and 135 diesel buses, and to replace the 70-year-old North End transit garage with an energy-efficient facility.

The taxi rate increase, the on-request service and bus contract would all need approval of full council if they’re approved by the public works committee.