Taxi challenge
Driver believes bylaw unfair

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 11/98) - The current Inuvik bylaw limiting the number of taxis on town streets to 20 is under renewed attack thanks to former driver Unal Duran.

Town of Inuvik senior administrative officer Don Howden has turned down Duran's request for a taxi cab permit so there will be a public appeal meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in town council chambers.

Duran started driving a taxi in Inuvik in 1988.

A few years later, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail for bribery with the stipulation that he not drive a taxi for five years.

That five-year period covered 1996 when town council voted to freeze new taxi vehicle permits and allow attrition to whittle down existing permits until 20 remain. Drivers need both a taxi permit and a driver permit.

Council's rationale at the time was to secure competition between Co-op taxi and United Taxi, while ensuring each taxi driver would be able to attract enough business to make a living, according to Coun. Garry Smith who was on council in 1996 and is set to join Coun. Clarence Wood as council representatives on the taxi commission.

Smith says the commission has been moribund virtually since the bylaw was struck, it will be reactivated and members will review the bylaw.

Now, even though Duran has a driver's permit, the 61-year-old needs a cab permit. So, he took his case to town council Nov. 23 but the town has taken no action yet.

The taxi commission is set to discuss the issue when it meets later this month and reviews the merit of the bylaw.

Co-op taxi administrator Derek Lindsay says Inuvik still has far more cabs per capita than other NWT towns with raw numbers far higher than Fort Smith or Hay River.

"The idea is to get the cabs down to a magic number of 20," he says.

"The only other city that has 20-plus cabs is Yellowknife. Right now, you've got 26 cars on the road so the bylaw has not done what it was supposed to do."

Current drivers who are still in Inuvik can renew their permits when they expire.

"I'm in bad shape. I have two kids. My wife is mentally sick in my home in Turkey so I send money back there," Duran says.

"I am asking (the town) if they can cut from 30 cars to 20, why not make it 21."

Duran also criticized the current practice allowing people who have taxi vehicle permits to sign over the permit to another driver.

That way, the only way attrition takes its toll is if the original permit holder leaves Inuvik.

"If it continues like this, it will never get down to 20," Duran says.