After much public and private outcry about a 40 per cent fare increase, the Kingston Area Taxi Commission (KATC) held a special meeting on Monday, May 9, 2022, to make amendments revoking the massive increase. In addition, the Commission revoked the controversial tiered fare schedule, which was adopted on Apr. 20, 2022.
The revised fares will amount to a much more palatable 20 per cent increase over the previous cost of taking a cab before the controversy.
Commissioner Dianne Aziz read a statement before the meeting, noting, “The Commission wishes to thank members of the industry and the Kingston community for their input on the fares. In particular, we acknowledge the work of Amey’s and Modern City Taxi in providing the Commission with a survey of their drivers’ views on appropriate fares. We recognize that they are most affected by and hear most about what fares our community would like to see. We are also grateful to members of the Kingston community who contacted us directly, many of them about the fares. Both Amey’s and Modern City Taxi have agreed to the revised fares that we are considering tonight.”
These niceties aside, the owners of Kingston’s largest taxi companies were so upset by the KATC decision to impose a 40 per cent increase in fares that they had been refusing to collect it, despite threats of fines and loss of licencing by the Commission just last week.
Commissioner Simon Chapelle, a member of City Council representing the City of Kingston on the Commission, also spoke before the meeting: “Having experience on City Council… we typically have a window that we work with [for public consultation], and I’m hoping that, going forward, our Commission in general just ensures that we get the direct information from the taxi brokers themselves. Because it’s unfortunate this information came after we closed that consultation… But surely, as Commissioner Aziz has indicated, there was a substantive amount of input that did come after the close of that. ”
The lack of public consultation on the fare increase of 40 per cent was a point of contention for the taxi companies, who conveyed that they felt largely ignored during the process. Mark Greenwood of Amey’s Greenwood Taxi stated, “We were very forthcoming, but they ignored us.”
“[The 20 per cent suggested increase] is the one that I had sent them in June,” said Greenwood. “I sent it on March 4; I sent it again before the meeting where they voted [the 40 per cent increase] in; and I presented at the meeting… They just absolutely ignored us and made their decisions behind closed doors… and then threw it on us. And even when I protested at the last meeting and said to them, ‘You’re gonna have to defend this decision to the public’ – because I knew my drivers were not going to like it – they didn’t care.”
Greenwood said that, once the fare increase of 40 per cent was announced, he was contacted by numerous concerned members of the public and encouraged them to contact their City Councillors, which he believes was part of the reason Mayor Bryan Paterson championed for the Commission to reconsider its decision.
This seemed to be supported by Chapelle, who stated, “Mayor Paterson was involved in resolving this issue. So, I just want to let you know that at the highest office, the City Council has brought this to light, and I would say a good compromise has come forward.”
Chapelle also spoke to the Commission about sharing congratulations with Commissioner Joe Dowser: “I just wanted to provide some accolades [to] Commissioner Dowser for bringing all this effort to help with the resolution and seeing that the Taxi Commission is working cooperatively with the taxi industry. So, thank you for your hard work and diligence behind this.”
This was seconded by Commissioner Steven Fraser, who said, “Joe, you’ve done a great job. Thank you very much.”
This was all a bit too rich for Greenwood, who noted, “I never heard from Mr. Dowser one time.”
According to Greenwood, this self-congratulation has been a pattern at KATC’s meetings, which are broadcast online on the Commission’s Facebook page: “They always do this ‘Well, we are doing all this work with the taxi companies… congratulations on what a wonderful job we are doing.’ This is not new to me. They say stuff like that at every meeting: ‘I just want to say what a wonderful job I was doing, and I want to add to that what a wonderful job you are doing and of course, everyone else, the industry and everyone.’”
For his part, however, Greenwood said he is relieved at the sudden turnaround. “I’m happy. I’m happy for the industry, the public, and our customers that [KATC] backed down from the position of a two-tiered, 40 per cent increase, which would have been confusing to the public, the drivers, and everyone involved. Just one lower rate overall: it’s much more efficient. It’s what they use in every other city. Why they tried to reinvent the wheel, I have no idea.”
The next meeting of the KATC is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 6:30 p.m., according to the City of Kingston meetings calendar. These meetings are typically broadcast on the KATC Facebook page, however, there is currently nothing listed on that page about the May 11 meeting.