One taxi company believes more licenses are needed in Timmins…the other suggests we have more than enough already.

Last month, Timmins Police Services Board Member John Curley raised the thought of having more taxis on the road for the Stars and Thunder Festival, and his push continued on Wednesday.

Curley says he’s received complaints from residents that there are a lack of taxi services, especially around the summertime when there are special events.

And with the Stars and Thunder Festival just a couple months away, he believes it’s well needed.

“Maybe we do have sufficient plates in the City of Timmins,” the former city councillor stated, “But personally, I don’t think that they’re being used properly.”

He says the lack of coverage can be a scary thing on the roads, suggesting some patrons who have alcohol in their system could and would even take a chance and drive after a long night.

Curley adds residents out in Porcupine must wait for cabs to drive over from Timmins, now that there isn’t a cab stand in the east end.

Northern Taxi Owner Dauda Raji attended the meeting.  He says when Northern bought the former A1 Taxi, it came with 11 taxi licenses.

Currently, the by-law states that there can be no more than 60 taxi licenses issued for the city.

Raji mentions that he’s looked at prices for pre-existing licenses, but states the amount “makes no business sense.”

The price being quoted?  An excess of $30,000…just for the plate.

Raji states his business has been growing over the last 15 months, going from six vehicles on the road to the full 11 they utilize today.

Curley says by not issuing additional licenses, the board is also hindering a business from growing.

He adds the more plates issued, the more jobs available.

However, not everyone is on board with the idea.  In fact, Vet’s Taxi Owner Richard Lafleur calls the idea “ridiculous.”

“We have more than enough taxis in our city,” he told the Rogers Media newsroom Wednesday afternoon, “If you look at different cities, most of them, the way they do it is they allow one taxi for every thousand people.”

The latest Census stated Timmins has a population of 41,788, down 3.2% from 2011.

By that logic, the city would only need 41 licenses—42 for those who like to round up.

But Lafleur says it’s always that one person who creates an uproar and the domino effect goes from there.

Lafleur says his cab drivers—who are technically freelancers that utilize his dispatch system—are outfitted with GPS and Internet technology and allows them to get to calls quicker.

He states the average wait time for his customers is around seven minutes, although that gets bumped up to around 12-15 minutes at peak times like the Friday and Saturday night bar rush.

Lafleur made the comparison to waiting in a department store lineup during Christmas time.

“They’re not going to go build another Walmart because for one month of the year, it’s busy,” he said, “People just have to have a little bit of patience that time of year and it’s pretty much the same in the taxi business.”

Ironically, Raji is a former Store Manager at the Timmins Walmart location.

Lafleur also dismissed the notion of issuing temporary licenses, saying it wouldn’t be cost-effective to go get a qualified car—has to be post-2012—equipment and insurance that could cost an excess of $25,000 per vehicle.

He admits the festival is going to cause some chaos at the end of June, but “not to the point where we need to bring in extra taxis.”

The Vet’s owner adds if they keep organized and work together, they can get through it.

“I personally don’t think we need (more licenses)…and I’ll be the first one to fight it.”

Police Chief John Gauthier says he respects both owners’ opinions, but based on the submissions from both local cab company owners, he’s not recommending any change at this point in time.

“There’s no data that indicates ridership is increasing,” he read.

But even if the police board gives authorization to issue more plates, it’s no guarantee Northern would get them as they would go through a lottery system first.  Details on that process are rather vivid.

The board has requested more information on the matter and this will be brought back during May’s TPS Board meeting.

Filed under: Local News