Thursday, November 20, 2008

Update from Roy Ambury

At the November 19, 2008 Commission meeting, which could not happen because too few Commissioners were present, we discussed charges for failing to wear a seat belt.
I haven’t covered this for a while, and some changes have occurred, so here goes.
What may taxi owners and drivers do that most car owners and drivers may not do?

* Taxi owners may remove the shoulder-belt portion of the seat belt and the middle seat belt in the front seat of the vehicle. [Reg. 613, s. 7(1), paras. A and b.]

* The driver of taxi may choose not to wear the seat belt at all if he has a paying passenger in the taxi. [Reg. 613, s. 7(3)]

* The driver of taxi is not responsible for assuring that a child up to grade school age is wearing appropriate seat belts or is in a child seat EXCEPT when carrying a child to and from school under contract with a school board or other authority in charge of a school for the transportation of children. [Reg. 613, s. 8(1) and (2)]

For the exact words of the law of Ontario, I have extracted the following from Highway Traffic Act, Revised Statutes of Ontario 1990, CHAPTER H.8 and Highway Traffic Act Revised Regulations of Ontario 1990, Regulation 613, Amended to O. Reg. 522/06. Click here to view the entire document.

In the interests of brevity, I have deleted portions which are not germane to this topic. For clarity, I have added underline to section headings.
My source is:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Steer toward taxi safety

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website


Members of Kingston's taxi commission should browse the Internet and log on to It's worth their time and trouble, especially after last weekend's close encounter between a cab driver and a pocket knife.

Just hours after the Bob Dylan concert let out at the downtown K-Rock Centre, an intoxicated passenger riding in a Kingston cab pulled out a knife and threatened repeatedly to "poke" the driver. He also made insulting remarks about the driver's mother, but verbal abuse is considered part and parcel of a cabbie's lot.

Nevertheless, the driver was lucky and escaped without injury. So was another cab driver who had a knife pulled on him in the Bath Road and Queen Mary Road area two weeks ago. That incident erupted over a cigarette.

These were two very close calls - and the excuse the commission needs to revisit the issue of taxi safety in Kingston.

The website is a good place to start. Founded in 1999 by a former industry regulator from Winnipeg, the website serves as an information resource for the taxi industry and an online memorial to the 1,821 cab drivers who have been murdered on the job since 1917.

The site is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. Like that famous stone wall, the website lists every victim of senseless cabbie violence by name. There's also a special section devoted to the Canadian slaughter: 170 cab driver homicides and counting.

A glance at the listings tells us right away that Kingston is better off than many Canadian cities. Miraculously, we have only one entry, but it's still fresh in the hearts and minds of many Kingston residents. David Krick, a 50-year-old Amey's driver, was stabbed to death by a fare he picked up on Father's Day in 2007.

Following Krick's cold-blooded killing, the Kingston taxi commission was under public pressure to review its safety protocols. At the time, Kingston cabs were not required to carry any equipment to protect the drivers; more than a year later they still aren't.

Some cabs have panic buttons that allow drivers to quickly signal an emergency to a dispatcher (the driver involved in Sunday's "poking" activated his emergency button but only after the passenger jumped out of the car). Most cabs are also equipped with GPS systems, which track a car's movement and speed.

After a six-month study, the commission concluded the installation of safety equipment in cabs - such as shields and cameras - should be voluntary. It found little support for mandatory safety equipment in cabs.

But commission chairman Ken Matthews left the door open to revisit taxi safety in six months' time.

That was 11 months ago.

Driving a cab in Canada is no safer than it was when Krick was killed. It's still a risky occupation and more dangerous than policing.

In the wake of Krick's death, the only tangible change made by Kingston's taxi regulators was to make driver education mandatory. That means drivers have to watch a safety video and review a booklet before their license is renewed.

There have been several violent attacks on Kingston cabbies since Krick died. Last weekend's attack was not unusual. The local taxi commission should be doing everything it can to ensure that Kingston continues to occupy only one line on

- - -

Taxi commission must do more to protect cab drivers


Monday, November 17, 2008

Man charged after city cab driver threatened

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website

A 23-year-old Kingston man faces charges after he pulled a knife on a cab driver early yesterday morning.

Kingston Police said the cab driver was not injured in the incident.

Police said the driver, a 20-year veteran, picked up two men in the Hub around 1:20 a. m. yesterday. The men directed the cab driver to take them to a home in the west end near Bayridge Drive and Front Road.

Along the way, the two men, who were intoxicated, police said, began to argue with one another about whether they should head home or head to Denny's restaurant for a bite to eat.

They also argued with the cab driver about the route he was taking to the west end, police said.

Finally, the two men decided to go to Denny's in the RioCan Centre on Gardiners Road.

The restaurant is open 24 hours a day. The cab driver changed directions and started heading to the new destination, and, again, the 23-year-old was rude to the driver, police said.

It was at this point in the ride that the passenger made a derogatory remark about the driver's mother. Police said the man called the cab driver's mother "a filthy wh---."

The cab driver had had enough. He pulled the car over at Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard and MacPherson Avenue and ordered the men out of the car.

The location is the same one where police recovered the car of driver David Krick, who was killed on Father's Day in 2007.

The driver told the men there was no charge for the ride, but they had to get out of the vehicle.

Police said one of the passengers pulled a knife on the cab driver and made a jabbing motion toward him.

"You don't want to get poked, do you?" the man allegedly told the cab driver as he held the knife, which police later seized and described as a key-chain- sized jackknife.

The cab driver put up his hands, replied that he didn't want to "get poked." The man made the jabbing motion one more time, police said, and then exited the vehicle.

The cab driver, police said, pushed the emergency button in his car and locked the doors to his vehicle.

Another driver came by, responding to the emergency signal. The two drivers watched the two men and waited for police to arrive.

Officers arrived a short time later and arrested the men. Only one faces charges.

The 23-year-old faces one charge each of having a weapon dangerous to the public peace, uttering threats to cause death and assault with a weapon. Police said the man has no criminal record.

Police wouldn't release the company the taxi driver was with.

The incident was the second one this month. On Nov. 5, a man pulled a knife on a cab driver over a cigarette.

The driver was not injured in the incident near Bath and Queen Mary roads.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paper or plastic?

You could use that credit card in the cab, but the drivers may not like you for it

From the Chicago Tribune online:

By Azam Ahmed | Chicago Tribune reporter
October 13, 2008

You've been there before: The cabbie mutters something about a broken machine or simply shakes his head and drives off.

Chicago requires its roughly 5,500 cabbies to accept credit cards, but many don't. Anyone who's been stranded—say, someone who has been booted from three cabs in a row for trying to pay with plastic—has to wonder why. It turns out there's a serious disincentive for accepting credit, and it's only gotten worse as it's become more expensive for drivers to keep their cabs on the road.

For starters, cabdrivers pay up to a 5 percent fee for accepting credit cards, and they can't pass it on. Your $20 cab ride may only cost the driver a dollar, but 10 of those fees a day can add up to more than $200 a month in losses.

"You know the price of gas is going up and has been going up," said Ron Flores, a cabdriver in Chicago. "And as for those [riders] who don't give you a tip, you're losing money by transporting them."

Another sticky point: Often an approved transaction later will be declined or disputed.

"Even when they do get that money, a lot of times it takes a number of days to receive the cash," said Jonathan Bullington, managing editor of Chicago Dispatcher, a monthly newspaper geared toward taxi drivers, chauffeurs and the riding public. "These guys need cash to pay for stuff [like] gas and food."

Also, the companies for which drivers work may make them wait a week or more to cash in their receipts. Passengers who want to play hardball can threaten to report a driver to the city's Department of Consumer Services.

Cabbies make another suggestion: Offer a bigger tip to the driver before he can pretend his machine is broken.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taxi brokers ready to strike

Fares not covering rising cost of gas

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website:

A group of taxi brokers say they are willing to go on strike - thereby eliminating a majority of cabs on city streets - if the taxi commission doesn't find a way to help them deal with the rising price of gasoline.

First the car owners would have to unionize, something that has been brewing for some time. Broker Joe Boucher said there is enough support to do it.

The union wouldn't include drivers. It would represent the middle-men in the local taxi business - the people who own cars and then sell their services to the local taxi companies.

Boucher said he hopes for good news this week when the taxi commission meets.

"There's a war brewing. We're trying to avert it, but we don't know if we can," he said.

The brokers are expected to be at the commission meeting Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

"We don't want to strike, but they may make us," said broker Dennis Robinson.

"We're basically sick of being the Rodney Dangerfields of the small business world."

In August, fares across the city went up, the first increase in almost two years. A large number of brokers say it didn't match the reality of doing business in the industry these days.

The brokers have argued that drivers should be allowed to use the "extra" button on the meter to add to the cost of riding in a taxi when the price of gas goes up. When pump prices fall, the extra charges would be dropped as well, the brokers say

"What we want is a contingency plan if [gas prices] go up," said taxi broker Bram Fisher.

He said that his cars lose up to $50 a day because fares haven't kept up with costs. A contingency plan, he said, would go a long way to easing the minds of taxi owners.

"That's the problem right now. There's no peace of mind," Fisher said.

Brokers, or plateholders, pay the city a yearly fee for the right to operate a taxi in Kingston. The brokers then pay the taxi companies for the right to use the company's signs on cars. The deal allows the brokers' cars to access travel contracts the company has in place.

Brokers also pay the drivers. Whatever is left from fares after covering those costs -along with gas, insurance and maintenance -is profit.

The brokers are likely to argue this week that the raise in rates, while a good start, needs to go farther to help the drivers and brokers, some of whom feel excluded from the decision-making process.

"We don't have a voice and we're sick and tired of getting crapped on," Boucher said. "The profit margin is being squeezed out."

The plateholders' union, if formed, would negotiate for rate increases with city hall and the taxi commission, Boucher said.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

From the Globe and Mail website

Taxis needed, but who will drive?

Vancouver officials seek more licences, but industry says few are willing to do the job

Special to The Globe and Mail
September 2, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Vancouver is facing a shortage of cab drivers that will hamper efforts to improve taxi service in time for the 2010 Olympics.

That's the latest twist in this city's dismal taxi situation, as Vancouver tourism and city officials launch a new push to get more cab licences in preparation for the Games.

Letters are being sent to the province's Passenger Transportation Board from Mayor Sam Sullivan, Tourism Vancouver chairman Geoffrey Howes and Port Metro Vancouver president Gordon Houston urging the issuing of more licences.

The city's top bureaucrat in charge of Olympic planning adds the city needs better taxi service, something that was driven home to Dave Rudberg during his week in Beijing.

"Virtually every second vehicle there was a taxi," noted Mr. Rudberg, general manager of Olympic preparations. And it still wasn't enough.

Taxi companies say city organizations can call for all the new licences they want, but there aren't enough drivers willing and able to service any more additions to the fleet.

"Last year, they added 100 taxis plus vans [in Vancouver] but nobody wants to drive it," said Manjit Mander, the owner of Black Top, the second-largest of the four cab companies in Vancouver.

He said all kinds of factors are discouraging people from taking up cab driving. Drivers are required to go through a three-week training course that costs $600. Gas prices are up and business is down because American tourism is down. And, since the economy is booming in other sectors, people who might have turned to taxi driving before are getting jobs in construction and elsewhere.

"Our company got 33 new licences but I don't have enough drivers for them," Mr. Mander said. And it costs him $60 a day to pay the overhead for each car sitting in the lot.

The taxi issue is a conundrum for Vancouver, as it faces not only the Olympics but a growing tourism industry and a city-planning philosophy that encourages people to adapt to a more urban European lifestyle of compact neighbourhoods and no cars.

"We've actually got a double whammy when it comes to need," Councillor Suzanne Anton said. "We do not have enough for our traditional tourism business, like cruises. And now so many more people don't have cars."

The city, which is one of 21 municipalities in the region that each regulate cabs individually, had only 477 taxis licensed to operate until last June, when the transportation board authorized another 111. There are about another 650 licensed cabs in other municipalities in the region, but they are not authorized to pick up in the city.

Vancouver council set a goal of trying to have 720 cab licences in time for the Winter Olympics.

"More taxis in Vancouver are needed as part of our preparations for 2010," Mr. Sullivan wrote in a letter going to the board this week. "In addition to supporting transportation requirements during the Games, the months leading up to February, 2010, will feature a record number of special events all across Vancouver and an increased demand for transportation services downtown."

Port Metro Vancouver sent a letter last week, noting that cruise passengers waited up to two hours for a taxi the previous weekend.

The port's cruise marketing director, Greg Wirtz, said the waiting times have improved over the past year - but largely because the city had 100,000 fewer cruise-ship passengers.

A newcomer did apply for 57 new licenses this May, the same number the city had been hoping to add in 2008. But the company, which was going to call itself Pink Taxi, was turned down in July.

Board member David McLean, in a decision on the application by Rinat Miftakhutdinov of Larix Pacific Transit, said the company's business plan seemed to be incomplete.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cabbies still fear for their safety

Driver David Krick murdered a year ago

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website:

Amey's taxi driver mike thompson has parked car No. 14 in a shady spot on a quiet sidestreet just south of Princess Street for a noon time break.

This is a place of reverence for Kingston cabbies. Thompson laments the lack of safety measures in

cabs, a year after colleague David Krick was murdered.

"We think about it all the time," said Thompson, standing next to his car, yesterday, just a few steps from the Durham Street sidewalk where Krick, bleeding profusely from stab wounds, was left to die early on the morning of June 17, 2007.

A few steps east of Thompson's car, a shrine to Krick has appeared around a utility pole.

There are two tin cans of wilted pink and purple flowers, two candles and a small white ceramic cherub. Fastened to the pole with black electrical tape is a complete copy of the front page of the Whig-Standard from that dreadful morning, June 18, 2007, when fellow cabbies awoke to the news of the murder.

Thompson had shared the driving duties of car No. 71 with Krick a few years earlier.

"When I saw the paper Monday morning ... I damn near dropped," Thompson said. "I wasn't angry; I was upset because we didn't know the details."

Police quickly determined what they believe had happened. Krick, working an early-morning shift, picked up a lone male passenger on Wright Crescent and drove east. The passenger robbed Krick, stabbed him and left him on Durham Street before speeding away in his taxi.

The taxi was abandoned at an apartment complex just off Van Order Drive. The killer escaped.

Four months after the slaying -the first murder of a Kingston cab driver - police charged a 31-year-old convict who had been on parole with first-degree murder.

The passage of a year has barely dulled a mother's pain. Shirley Krick calls June 17 "the lonely day."

"It's the worst day of my life," she said in an interview yesterday.

"I'm still hurting," Krick said. "I don't think that lonely feeling of missing David -I don't think it's ever going to go away."

She cannot bring herself to visit the spot on Durham Street where rescuers found her mortally wounded son.

"I'll never go out there," she said. "I accidentally made a wrong turn off Princess Street one time and I saw the sign that said Durham and I said to my daughter, 'We gotta get off here.' "

Despite Krick's murder, the agency that regulates Kingston cabs chose not to make any safety equipment mandatory.

The taxi commission created a safety committee to consult drivers and taxi cab owners. A survey was distributed. Of 133 responses, 64 per cent said they wanted to see cameras installed in all cabs.

The commission decided "there was no clear mandate" and decreed that the installation of any safety devices was at the discretion of cab owners.

There have been several violent attacks on cab drivers since Krick's murder.

"I'd like to see a shield [installed] of some sort," Thompson said.

He said that, fearful of confrontations, many cabbies ignore the law requiring them to be seatbelted in at all times.

"That belt becomes a real hindrance if you have to fight with someone," he noted.

- - -

The case

:The murder of Amey's taxi driver David Krick, 50. WHEN:June 17, 2007, just before 7 a. m.

EVENTS:Police say Krick picked up a lone male passenger on Wright Crescent at 6:36 a. m. and was stabbed by that passenger and left bleeding on a sidewalk on Durham Street.

ACCUSED:On Oct. 11, police charged Richard Edmund Smith, 31, a federal prisoner, with first-degree murder; his common-law wife, Laura Jean Clow, 39, was charged Oct. 9 as an accessory after the fact. Smith, who was on parole at the time, has a 10-year record of violent crimes, including sexual assault.

SAFETY:Kingston's taxi commission studied safety measures for all cabs, including barriers and cameras, and decided not to make any safety equipment mandatory. Education for all drivers was made mandatory.

Copyright © 2008 The Whig Standard

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sisters' charges withdrawn; Women were suspected of robbing taxi driver at knife-point

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Website:

Sisters charged in the summer of 2007 with the knife-point robbery of a Modern Taxi driver have had the charges against them withdrawn by the Crown.

The turnaround happened after defence lawyer Lawrence Silver convinced a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice that Jennifer Deano's constitutional right to legal counsel was violated when she was interviewed in July 2007, by Kingston Police Det. Brian J. Pete. Justice Judith Beaman ordered the exclusion of a statement Deano made during that interview which connected her to the locale where the cabby picked up his assailants.

Beaman was told that the Modern cab driver was dispatched to a call at Gordon Grocery, a store on the corner of Macauley and Montreal streets, around 5 a.m. on Dec. 22. There, he picked up two women bundled in parkas and drove them to the rear of 87 Compton St., where one of them pulled a knife, held it to his throat and demanded his cash.

The cab driver, in the statement he gave to police immediately afterwards, said he handed over about $70 from his pocket and the other female then reached across the front seat and helped herself to his loonies and toonies before they both fled.

A neighbour in the area, who owned a scanner and happened to be looking out a window at the time, saw two people in parkas run to the front of 87 Compton, where they appeared to try to buzz someone in the building. When they weren't successful, they took off running. At the same time, the man learned from his scanner that a taxi driver had run into trouble in the area.

Beaman was told that the neighbourhood man later gave a statement to police in which he described the two individuals, but thought the taller one might have been a male. The smaller one, he told police, was wearing a tighter jacket and he thought it might have been fur trimmed.

Pete testified that Kingston Police received an anonymous tip in January 2007, that the robbers were Jennifer Deano, 28, and her younger sister, Jessica Deano, 26.

He also testified that he put together photo lineups containing images of the sisters, but the witness didn't pick either woman out of the lineups. The detective didn't show the photo arrays to the taxi driver, he said, because the man never actually saw the faces of his assailants.

Pete said he wasn't able to secure any security footage from 87 Compton, which might have disclosed the identities of the robbers.

The detective admitted that he had no grounds to arrest either woman, based only on an anonymous tip. However, "it would have been neglectful to not follow that up," he testified and consequently, he was interested in talking to them. He just wasn't able to locate them, he told the judge.

In July 2007, however, he learned there was a warrant out for the elder sister on an unrelated matter and told the court he put a note on her file, directing that when she was picked up, he wanted to speak to her before she attended court.

Beaman learned that his opportunity had arrived after Deano was arrested July 16, 2007, not in relation to the warrant but as a result of concerns about her mental health. The warrant was subsequently brought into play, but, through a misunderstanding, Deano was taken for her bail hearing first and then brought back to the police station to be interviewed by Pete.

The judge was shown a video tape of their conversation, which captured Jennifer Deano asking Pete, "Shouldn't I have a lawyer or something?" almost immediately after he broached the subject of the robbery,

Pete told her, "You can speak to a lawyer whenever you want," but didn't immediately describe her legal options. Instead, he went on to tell her that he intended to talk to her about the robbery, which he believed she and her sister had committed. He told her that she didn't have to speak to him and cautioned her that if she did, anything she said could be used as evidence.

Eventually, Deano responded to one of his questions and spoke of a call for a taxi made from a pay phone near Gordon Grocery.

Immediately after that, Pete told her, "Jennifer, right now I'm going to arrest you for robbery," and explained her lawyer options. She told him she didn't have a lawyer of her own, but wanted to speak to duty counsel.

The video shows that she left the room after that and when she returned, Pete attempted to revisit her earlier comment about calling a cab from Gordon Grocery.

"I'm not supposed to say anything until I talk to my duty counsel tomorrow," she responded.

The video shows that Pete tried a couple of additional approaches, but Deano rebuffed his attempts to draw her into conversation. "I think I'll want to talk to duty counsel tomorrow," she told him. "I don't really understand all of this."

Silver argued that Pete should have stopped questioning his client and provided her with the means to exercise her right to talk to a lawyer immediately after she asked. He told Beaman "it's a hollow offer," when police tell someone they can talk to a lawyer and then delay providing the opportunity until some incriminating statement has been elicited.

Beaman found that Deano's rights were violated when the officer delayed facilitating her request for legal counsel. At the point where Pete began to question her, "it's my opinion her status had gone beyond that of a person of interest to that of a suspect," the judge said and, consequently, Deano should have been cautioned about her liability and afforded an opportunity to seek legal advice.

"I find Ms. Deano did assert her right to counsel," the judge said, adding that she wasn't afforded a timely opportunity to exercise that right.

She then excluded Deano's statement about calling a cab, leaving the Crown with no evidence to connect her - and by extension her sister - to the robbery that night.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taxi drivers' bill of rights makes courtesy the best policy B.C. rolls out safety regulations and fines for badly behaved cabbies and passengers

From the Globe and Mail Website:

January 31, 2008

-- Taxi drivers reluctant to take passengers on long rides to the suburbs could face fines of $288 as part of a new Taxi Bill of Rights for Metro Vancouver that also guarantees passengers a "courteous driver" and "quiet atmosphere."

The code, announced yesterday, was saluted by some in the industry for the rights it gives to drivers, who will be able to refuse service to unruly passengers and demand deposits for long trips.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon framed the plan as a bid to improve service in the Vancouver region as the 2010 Winter Olympics raise the prospect of a flood of visitors in the region needing prompt cab service. "We are inviting the world here in 2010, and we want to make sure we have got a world-class taxi industry we can be proud of in British Columbia," Mr. Falcon told a news conference. "The taxi drivers' bill of rights will go a long way to ensuring we get there."

Mr. Falcon said he is talking to the industry about options and ideas for ensuring a healthy supply of cabs during the 17-day Games, but said he needs time before disclosing them.

"There are some ideas that can help deal with that surge during the Olympics," he said, noting that 111 new taxi licences have been issued for Vancouver in the past six months.

The code of conduct includes provisions for passengers to be guaranteed the right to a clean taxi, to direct the route or expect the most economical route, and to travel with an assistance dog or portable mobility aid. Taxi drivers can refuse fares for their own health and safety or that of a passenger, if the person is acting in an offensive manner or won't provide a deposit.

The rules deal with issues that have arisen recently in the taxi industry. Some cabbies have refused to take passengers on long trips out to the suburbs. Drivers have been assaulted, and some have been cheated by customers who dash out of the vehicle after long trips without paying.

Last year, Mr. Falcon was himself denied a trip to Surrey one evening from the Vancouver entertainment district.

"This is really a balanced approach, because this is for passengers and drivers," said Gurvinder Mahil, president of Black Top, one of the region's largest taxi services.

Mr. Falcon is promising "undercover sting operations" to find drivers violating the rules on taking passengers to the suburbs.

Mr. Mahil welcomed the stings.

"If we want to protect our industry, it's good. If the driver is doing something wrong, why protect them?"

Mr. Falcon acknowledged his own troubles with cabs.

"I've had, actually, lots of experiences," Mr. Falcon said. "And I think the issue was there was some, probably, legitimate confusion on the part of taxi drivers not understanding their obligations that come with a taxi licence, and one of the things I think the taxi bill of rights does is really clarify what the obligations of drivers are, and what the expectations of drivers are," he said.

"I think we will see an improvement, but it will not happen overnight."

New Democrat Raj Chouhan, who has been dealing with the issue for the opposition, called the code a "step in the right direction," but hoped that the government would provide resources to police to protect cabbies by promptly responding to reports of assault.

A spokesman for the minister was unable to clarify what cash penalties might be imposed on cabbies who violate the other measures of the conduct code, such as not providing a clean cab.