Age restriction on cabs
Recommendation made to pull 10-year-old taxis of the road

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 06/98) - Yellowknifers may see fewer cabs on the road next month.

The city's works and public safety committee recommended Tuesday to stick with a proposed age limit of nine years on all taxis.

But the recommendation is not sitting too well with one cab company.

"I can show you '89s that have brand-new ball joints, brand-new ti-rod ends, transmissions that are only two years old, steering and everything is accurate, as tight as they come," said YK Cabs owner John Dalton.

"And I can show you vehicles that are three years old that shouldn't be on the road."

What the city has done is create a situation in which every single year cabs will be pulled of the road and place cab operators in financial difficulty because they may not be able to afford a $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 investment, he said.

"You look at recouping that over a period of time. In the taxi business it's not lucrative in this town at the moment and it going to provide hardship."

Dalton has 25 taxis on the road, many of which are owned by the drivers. Of those 25, currently there are seven that are older than nine years. On March 31, he has no choice but to take the cabs off the road.

"I fundamentally have a problem. Several of those cabs were inspected by two different garages last week, just to see. They passed inspection. March the 31th they're safe, on April 1, they're not safe. I don't understand that," said Dalton.

Dalton is hoping for some compromise from city hall when council meets on Monday night and looks at the issue for the last time.

The bylaw was drawn up last May by the previous council. The present council reviewed the amendment late last year and YK Cabs and the defunct Sunshine Cabs voiced their concern, which has kept the debate alive till now.

Bylaw manager Paul Gamble said the amendment will make cabs and streets safer.

"What I did is look at the length of time that a car is used. I looked at the RCMP cars and other vehicles around and the length of time they're used and picked nine years as a safety factor," said Gamble.

Every taxi in the city has to be inspected once a year. Right now any vehicle that is more than six model years old must meet a bi-annual mechanical inspection by any of the 14 designated inspections stations. No vehicle shall be more than nine model years old.

As the vehicle gets older, the cost of maintaining the vehicle goes up and it becomes a matter of economics for the taxi operator.

For Gamble, it becomes a matter of safety.

"For the taxi operator the age is economics, if they want to spend the money to maintain the taxi, that's their prerogative. From my point of view I want to ensure that the taxis operating in the city are safe and I also want to ensure they're in good condition, body and interior for the aesthetic look of them for the tourist and the people and the customer."

Branko Babic a spokesperson for City Cabs, said they support the nine-year age restriction since it was first introduced last May and the fact that City Cabs has built a fleet around it.

"On Jan. 13, 1998, we had a meeting with Mr. Gamble and it was agreed that March 31, 1998, all vehicle be 1990 or newer. We have gone and spent money on new vehicles because of this bylaw which totals around $190,000.

"I don't know why we're even discussing this," said Babic. "Nine physical years old is plenty for vehicles running here 24 hours a day in -45 C and long winters. If you take a nine-year-old vehicle to any dealership here, they'll probably give you $50 to take it to the dump."