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Vehicle for hire saga continues

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

Mike Vey of Arrow Taxi speaks to council members during Monday night's City Council meeting in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)

Mike Vey of Arrow Taxi speaks to council members during Monday night's City Council meeting in Portage la Prairie. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)

The simple act of driving a person one place to another shouldn’t be this hard.

Portage la Prairie’s taxi industry was once again topic of discussion at this week’s city council meeting as council members heard from a delegation questioning bylaw changes when the city’s old livery bylaw was seldom, if ever, enforced.

“There are rules already written in the bylaw that aren’t being enforced,” says Mike Vey, owner of Arrow Taxi. “There hasn’t been one single enforcement of the bylaw in the last 10 years. Drivers are driving around without licenses and they’re driving around with the wrong insurance. People are doing whatever they want to do and it’s time to get it straightened out.”

The city of Portage la Prairie intends to implement the updated bylaw in the coming months in order to be in compliance with the province’s Bill 30, legislation adopted last year to open up the market for companies like Uber and Lyft. The Vehicle for Hire Act – formerly the livery bylaw – becomes effective at the end of February, however municipalities can continue to use the old bylaw until a new act is put in place.

As part of the process to update the act, the city surveyed local taxi and shuttle companies for feedback on what they would like to see in the new bylaw. The survey ranged from specific regulations (vehicle age, exterior signage, posted fare prices, flat rates vs. meter, posted licenses visible to passengers, etc.) to the security and safety of both driver and passenger.

As far as Vey is concerned, it’s time for Portage to follow suit with cities like Steinbach, Thompson, Winkler, Selkirk and Flin Flon, and rid the industry of flat rates entirely.

“Flat rate to me is a very dangerous thing. You’ve got somebody all the way across town so obviously the driver has to drive a lot faster to make his money,” says Vey.

The Arrow Taxi owner also brought forth concerns of drivers picking up customers with passengers already in tow and the frustratingly slow process it takes to, legally, hire employees.

“I’ve been involved in the business for over 20 years and the last few have been a bit of a struggle,” he says. “There are bylaws in place that aren’t being enforced, and it’s time to get the bylaw set up so it’s going to work.”

The industry-wide survey is one of a number of methods the city is exploring to gather information on the issue and expects to have an updated Vehicle for Hire Act in the coming months.

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