Rhino's Ramblings - Wasting Away In Uberville Searching For My.....

taxi logo.jpg

Robert Thomas - Opinion/Commentary

So what is the big deal when it comes to taxis, ride share and accessibility is something many people are thinking and why is Council spending so much time on the entire issue? This is something which could be decided long ago you might think but in reality it’s a very complicated issue.

It’s not like Council can simply wave their hand and presto you are going to magically see taxis, limousines, shuttles as well as ride share and unregistered companies (commonly referred to scan cabs) work in perfect harmony.

It’s not quite that simple there has to be rules -  for some they do not like to see infringement upon businesses while others see a need to insure there are rules to not only insure there are reputable drivers but a level market for all consumers as well. And that includes people who are not so able bodied as others. 

The entire issue all came up this past Thursday evening when the Special Needs Advisory Committee met to discuss the two proposed draft bylaws the Taxi Bylaw and the Ride Share Bylaw.

The Taxi Bylaw is something which has sat in a dusty old drawer somewhere in City Hall for years as there was no local bylaw when it came to operating a taxi. Just get a license and have at it.

But that all changed when the Province decided to change the rules and allow ride share companies like Uber and Lyft to enter the Saskatchewan market. 

It is a move which has shaken the taxi industry in both Saskatoon and Regina and now it is time for the Friendly City and what happens here could very well make our city as notorious as Weyburn when it comes to public perceptions of our local attitudes towards people with disabilities and special needs.

In the Weyburn case they said no to a group home in a newer upscale neighbourhood saying it would ruin someone's dreams. Whereas in Moose Jaw we are looking at the entire issue of access and equity. 

In our City's case do we want to be viewed as the first city to jump on the Uber bandwagon in this province and make no rules to allow those with less mobility access to equitable, affordable and adequate taxi service? Or do we want those who are physically and mentally  disabled better access while releasing the boogie man called less choices in the market place given the added expense of providing mobility taxi services?

It’s yet another issue which Council faces where they are damned if they do and they are damned if they don't.  

There is a strong push onwards to Uberville and in the rush to get there it almost seems like some Jimmy Buffett song is playing in the background telling you it’s OK to limp back home twice broken leg or not. 

With that said providing adequate transportation for people with disabilities and special needs is not cheap either. The cost of equipment is often prohibitive for many firms to get into the business. Plus additional there is often extra time getting riders with disabilities with special needs into and out of taxis or any vehicle for that matter and we all know time is money.

So to help with these financial considerations and encourage the private sector to invest in mobility transport the Special Needs Advisory Committee requested Council consider a tariff attached to all rides in taxis and Ride Sharing and / or other incentives. 

The Committee also discussed issues which should be a concern to all residents of Moose Jaw. And that being what type of driver and reality has a hands off to the Taxi industry here spun. Is it compromising safety of both passengers and drivers alike?

And yes, I will admit I had parents tell me there is no way their kids will ever ride in a taxi due to safety considerations as it stands right now -  whether real or not sorry I cannot say. That in itself creates a situation where you have the potential of underage (and others) driving impaired due to their own safety concerns. 

For most people such initiatives by the Committee I am going to see as completely unnecessary as they usually do not see people with disabilities or special needs using taxis anyhow. So what is the big deal anyhow? 

Whether the naysayers want to admit it or not it is really a much bigger issue and that is it is not just about accessibility it is also about equity and allowing everyone participate in society and events if they chose to do so. In many ways it’s a fight against hidden discrimination much like Weyburn showed but were foolish enough not to express in whispers. 

It’s the same in Moose Jaw and when it comes to public conveyance even if it is provided by a public firm. 

How far can Moose Jaw push the envelope either way? If we go too gung ho when it comes to instituting mobility requirements in the two draft bylaws we risk losing taxi and ride share services. But on the other side we basically turn some residents lives into or continue the prison their disability creates for them when it comes to participating in our city. 

Now I know there are going to be those out there who say the City needs to vote for the majority and in a democracy the majority win. But sorry that is not how a democracy works and it is suppose to be allowing those with often weaker voices to be heard and represented. 

And that is the balancing act Council is looking at. Do they take a very good look at the concerns and input from an Advisory Committee or do they go the laissez faire way of simply letting the industry decide? Do we apply the brakes temporarily or floor it as we speed towards Uberville? 

One thing not recommended by the Committee though was maybe members of Council need to spend a day in a wheelchair and then use only taxis to get around before they decide. 

moose jaw