Video – Cobourg Council Passes Vehicles For Hire Bylaw

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By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
In hopes of offering more transportation options, Cobourg council passed a Vehicle For Hire bylaw that aims to attract app-based ride-sharing services available in bigger cities.

The bylaw governs all vehicles for hire, and concern within the local taxi businesses was expressed by Kelly Payton, owner-operator of Cobourg Cab and industry advocate
Payton predicted an initial huge influx of drivers in the first six months, “ultimately affecting local companies, resulting in job losses and decreased hours of operation, and complete closure altogether.”

After about a year, she predicted bigger companies getting into the market, squeezing out the smaller ones and resulting in reduced services overall.

Where does that leave people who aren’t at ease using an app-based company, she pointed out.

She referred to attempts to attract ride-sharing app services as “bending over for the big out-of-town corporations.

“This will result in the little fish being wiped out by the big fish, and then increasing the prices,” she predicted.

Municipal Clerk Brett Larmer gave a report on public engagement on Vehicle For Hire standards, which included an Engage Cobourg survey that was up from April 4 to 18 and received 200 responses. Of that number, almost half the respondents fell into the 56-to-75 age category.

Asked if they would feel confident using the new services, 76% said yes and 18% said maybe.

Respondents expressed concern over long wait times and limited hours of operation with current taxi services. They voiced a wish for more options, for example, for people who worked late hours or who needed to get around on holidays and weekends.

“There was a general sense of support for the bylaw from the public,” Larmer summed up.

He added that meetings had also taken place with current players in the industry to get their input as well.

“We have listened to them and made a fair bit of changes,” he noted.

Going forward, all these services – from app-summoned transportation to limousine services and taxicabs – will be known by the generic Vehicle For Hire label.

Larmer reported conversations with Peterborough, which has brought in app-based ride-share services – two such companies, in fact.

“I asked, when you brought them in, was there a real change or loss of ridership for taxis,” he said.

What they found was that a significant number of people opted to keep with what was familiar, and to continue using taxis.

“You never know until you try,” Larmer said.

Both Larmer and the mayor stressed that they welcome continued input from the taxi industry and from VFH users as the options unroll.

“This bylaw is crafted in a way that other municipalities can simply adopt this bylaw if they choose do. In doing so, they create a larger market,” Cleveland said.

“It is our hope that they do, because the bigger the marketplace, the better chance we have of attracting good competition.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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