Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cab rides may cost more by the summer

From the Kingston Whig-Standard Online:

Taxi fares in Kingston could rise this year at the same time the new harmonized sales tax comes into effect.

On July 1, a new sales tax of 13% will be levied on a wide array of products and services in Ontario. The tax, which is bitterly opposed by many consumers and business groups, merges the federal GST and provincial PST and while goods and services already taxed won't be affected, the harmonized tax covers a vast range of services currently not taxed.

One of the areas the double-digit tax would be applied is taxi fares, and as the Kingston Area Taxi Commission will have to recalibrate all the meters in the city's taxis to reflect the new tariff, long-time cab driver Roy Ambury is suggesting the city's taxi commission takes the opportunity to increase fares at the same time.

Driving cab is a financially precarious business, he said in an interview this weekend, and the city's cabbies haven't seen a rise in rates in 2008.

"The economy in general is not performing the way it should be, and taxi drivers need some help," he said.

"This new tax is coming in and there's a lot of concern about that, and we're suggesting that the taxi commission take a look at the rates at the same time they have to adjust the (fares) for the HST."

Taxi rates currently stand at a $2.85 drop rate, which is the charge to get into a cab, then 10 cents for each 77 metres, with added tariffs for waiting time, baggage and extra passengers.

There are some 600 drivers working for three companies in the city, and Ambury said at times it is difficult for drivers just to break even.

"We think there has to be a price point that is both good for the consumers and good for the drivers," he said.

"If the driver is a good businessman, he will make it, if he is not a good businessman he won't, but in a lot of cases right now with the price of fuel and everything else, it's a matter of breaking even versus not breaking even."

The taxi commission will consider the request to in-crease rates, as well as continue its discussion the mounting of cameras in city cabs for the protection of drivers, at its regular meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Ken Matthews, chair of the commission, said he doubts the majority of drivers will support a fare increase.

"Every time fares go up ridership goes down, at least for a while," he said. "It comes back gradually."

Fare increases are reviewed every year.

"I don't think there's any chance (of a fare increase), but it's up to the committee (to review it)," Matthews said.

"If there's a lot of support for an increase, there will be a review."

Copyright © 2010 The Whig Standard

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