taxi cab, Kingston, OntarioJust in time transportation in the Limestone City is provided by three taxicab companies, specifically: Amey’s, Amherst and Modern.  Over the past few years their respective fleets have received various upgrades thanks to the addition of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, GPS navigation, debit and credit card machines, as well as safety lights, which flash to indicate when driver safety might be compromised.  On that note, I’ve also begun to notice a few local taxicabs equipped with video cameras, which capture the image of passengers, just in case the trip from A to B turns into scene from a Jean-Claude Van-Damme movie.  Of course I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that Kingston’s taxis have been smoke free for a number of years, although it’s debatable as to whether or not every cabbie abides by that rule.  While not all local taxicab companies are of the same calibre, this week we’re asking you to complete the following sentence:
[poll id=”40″]
Unfortunately the rider-friendly features listed above are not standard in all of our local taxis.  Perhaps rather than complaining about how long it takes for a cab to pick you up, the average cost for a ride, or the ridiculous choice of music your cabbie has selected, we should encourage taxi companies to make debit, GPS and all the rest, the norm.  If we’re seriously talking about changes to the local taxi scene, how about establishing a standard fare for passengers going to and from the airport, train and bus stations.  How would you improve Kingston’s taxi companies?  Do we need more companies competing to see any positive changes? What horror stories, or advice regarding the local taxi scene are you willing to share?

Thanks to JL08 for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

18 thoughts on “Taxi!

  • I take cabs every week. I know fares went up when the HST came in. Now people think the cabbies make more money, because fares went up. Wrong. Talked to enough that now they make less per hour because of the HST hike. Companies take a bit more and the taxes are higher too. Sure some riders use the cab companies less often too because of the hike. Thanks provincial government for making me pay more for cab rides.

    Response time always depends on day and time. I get a cab Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, piece of cake. If you are someone calling one after the bar rush on Saturday nights? Good luck. You will have to wait a while. I see people wait for a cab and get frustrated. 'Ummm, how many people you think are calling for a cab right now?" And many are drunk of course. Not the best passengers.

    Heard one story of driving 2 guys from downtown to the west end. Cabbie had to stop 5 times for one of them to throw up on the side of the road. That would delay things. Also have the bar workers going home too. Lot of people.

    Only so many cars to go around. Can't license extra cars just for a few hours a week. And I wouldn't want those type of drivers on the road anyway. Also have the quiet times where it is SLOW. Overnight I've seen cabbies parked and waiting 40 minutes or more for a call during the week.

    Standard fares won't happen. Don't know any cites that have that. Only time I've heard that is for long distance rides. Some guy had to get a cab from here to Toronto one time. [Don't know why but he did] Then the companies have a standard rate for certain cities. Ran him around $400 or $500 I think. Beggars can't be choosers.

    As for drivers. Cabs I've been in will even stop the meter if we get stuck at a light for too long. Or one morning when construction was going on and we were going slow he turned off the meter until we got out of the downtown. Never had any driver smoke in the cab. Not a one. Whether they stop people from smoking in the cab? Who knows.

    • Agreed, the availability of cabs during peak times/events is something people just have to deal with. Most cab companies already put extra vehicles on the road during these times, and putting even more drivers on the roads just isn't an option financially. It's likely hard getting drivers to work just for peak times/events, and after the rush is over, there are too many cars just sitting idle waiting for fewer fares.

      I haven't travelled the world over, but of the places I've been, many offer set fares getting to and from the airport and various zones such as downtown, suburbs etc… Quebec City is one place that comes to mind, which is great as fares can skyrocket if traffic is crappy on the highway into the City – it usually is during rush hour. I'm not sure if any of Kingston's cab companies already/used to offer this. From a riders point of view the predictable cost is easier to swallow.

  • I voted for fares even though I don't really think fares are too high. They seem to be fairly average from other cities I've visited. The reason I voted that way is because I don't understand why there isn't any bus service in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays. The major routes run "as late as 11:30pm", well great, I can get to the bar, but how do I get home without spending upwards of $10? As a woman, I don't always feel safe walking home, even if it's just a few blocks, but sometimes I have to because I don't have enough cash for a cab. I know many people who ride that fine line of driving after a few drinks because they don't want to pay for a cab. I don't remember where I heard it, but someone once told me that Kingston has one of the highest rates of drunk driving in Ontario (anyone know where we could look to confirm that info?) Keeping a few more major bus routes open 'til 1am or so on Friday and Saturday would not only help keep us all safe, but it would encourage people who don't regularly ride to take the bus more often.

    • Kingston isn't even listed on this report (see page 18), which covers impaired driving from 1998 through to 2002 for cities with populations under 500K. I've yet to find something more current, or whether a per capita comparison would change whether or not Kingston "would make the cut". Hopfully not.

  • I've always had good service from the taxi drivers of Kingston – I swore by Modern Taxi for years (without much logical reason, much like deciding which is the "good" Denny's) but recently when my dog became quite ill and I needed to head out to the emergency vet on Midland the receptionist mentioned most people coming in used Amey's. Not sure of how a cabbie would feel about a small dog that was potentially explosive at both ends, I called the dispatcher expecting troubles, but I think they could tell I was upset and were very nice.

    The cabbie on the way out was very friendly, arrived quickly, and though the clinic took some finding (it's in a strip mall waaaaay out Midland) he even stopped the meter while we looked for it. When we were finished at the vet, a new cabbie picked us up promptly and got us straight home. Both were very good experiences and got a good tip!

    The dog was fine, and did not in fact, explode on anyone's upholstery. Long story short, I had some very good service from Amey's at a stressful time!

  • Also, the good Denny's is the one on Gardiner's road and I wouldn't be caught dead at the Denny's by the 401.

  • The best thing that could happen for Kingston consumers would be for cabs to be deregulated.

    Right now, cabbies need to have a driver's license, insurance and complete a police background check. That's fine. Let anyone who has those three things (and, say, a regular inspection of their car to ensure it's in good working condition) be a cabbie, and let them charge whatever they want.

    Scrap the $445 plateholder fee, the $200 administration fee, the $130 taxi driver's license, etc. etc. Get rid of the fixed fees and allow cabbies to set their own rates.

    Regulatory fees and cartel-style price fixing make cabs expensive and scarse. Do away with them.

    • Cabbies also have to take a test and adhere to dozens of bylaws, in other words they are very accountable for their action or lack of. It seems simple to do away with taxi fees and have all our taxi's race to the bottom in price but that will only get you crappy cars and service as no one will make a living. Uber is now out of the honeymoon phase with drivers, now that they have cut rates and most drivers after car expenses can't make any money. Believe it or not, regulatory fees are there to protect us…..just think if airlines could race to the bottom in prices and not fix their planes.

  • It may seem expensive to get a ride via a taxi. I have never been a taxi driver. However, The drivers have to make a living and as Bork mentioned there are the above fees which have to be recovered. Plus the taxi driver does not get everything. Some goes to the business to pay for admin costs ( phone advertising, utilities) vehicle related cost. You also have to factor in time when a cab driver has to wait for a call. So after taking the above into consideration, no it is not too much

  • I always enjoy chatting to the huge variety of people who end up being taxi drivers.

    On the specific firms and issues, I used to use Modern but now use Amey's largely because of Modern's complete stupidity, as the following surreal telephone conversation illustrates:

    Me: Do you have taxis with child seats?
    Modern: Some of them do, some of them don't.
    Me: Okay, I'd like to book a taxi with a child seat please
    Modern: Sorry, sir, we can't do that. You'll just have to take what is available.
    Me: But I need a taxi with a child seat.
    Modern: We can't do that.
    Me: So, what's the point of telling me that some of your cars have child seats if you can't book them?
    Modern: That's just the way it is.
    Me: Can't you see how ridiculous that is?

    etc., with the conversation ending with me telling them that they were a pretty useless taxi company.

    So I call Amey's, and the response is 'Yes, Sir, of course' – and the cab is there exactly when I want it with the child seat in place.

    I will never book a taxi through Modern again.

  • Based on experiences with the company as a whole I prefer Amey's, I like their 8 minute response rule, and they generally just seem to have more pleasant drivers, and they seem to have the most competent dispatchers. Sure they have their share of jerk drivers, who wait til you're at your destination before telling you their debit machine doesn't work, or the ones who will try to scam you by telling you a certain way is cheaper only to find out its twice as much. But then you get the kind hearted individuals, like the one this summer who came upon me walking home in the pouring rain and offered me a ride home at no charge (This event pretty much reinstated what little faith I had in humanity as me walking home was a result of someone stealing my purse from our staff room at work). Not really a reflection on the company, more of the individual, but it was an Amey's driver and many cabs had passed me that day.
    After using taxi services this summer in Barrie and London it makes Kingston seem DIRT cheap. Barrie taxi prices almost double that of Kingston. The one thing I like in TO is the very well displayed driver ID, which Kingston hasn't adopted. So Amey's can take my picture for their drivers safety, shouldn't there be some security for the driver? Like being able to give the police a name if god forbid anything ever happened?

    • I don't want to ignite any opinionated A vs B discussion here, but I find it quite funny how your experiences have been so different from mine! I've stopped using Ameys, after they repeatedly kept 'forgetting' my calls. Nothing makes a customer, who has to go to the airport or catch a train, more happy than a 20 minute wait for a cab that never comes.

      • I can totally relate to your dislike of company A, or B for that matter. I too have found myself waiting for far too long, during what one would hope to be a non-peak time of day. What's worse is the apathetic dispatchers and drivers who act too busy to care that you have to wait. I live a bit out of the way, which is partly to blame. The priority sequence system is relative to where the closest taxi is, and I get that it's not feasible to have a driver make their way from the other side of town to pick me up. I'd settle for a realistic estimated pick up time, but I think that's too much to ask for.

      • There is no doubt in my mind that where I have had good experiences others have had bad. And thats not to say I never had bad ones. And I admit I have adopted some extra methods to make my life easier, after missing more than enough trains for a life time waiting for cabs, I just by habit start calling them a little earlier.. And with company A they have an 8 minute response rule, so once it hits minute 9 I start calling, at first I felt like an annoying customer but its their policy and more than one driver has said to do that. Its very rare I make that post 8 minute call.

    • Interesting that the cab driver gave you a free ride as this is against the bylaws and the taxi driver can get fined and a black mark on his license. Really was a nice driver, hopefully you gave him a big tip.

      • That is completely false. One Amey's driver gave his first ride of the shift for free for years he owned that bronzing shop. Technically if the meter is not on in the city then the ride is free. But Kingston is mostly good people so I doubt they would not add some extra on if meter started late, or pay nothing if meter was not turned on at all.

  • Adding wheelchair accessible vehicles would be great.

  • I’m a big fan of taxi (drivers) who just take me where I want to go. I’m not interested in their babble (obviously they do this out of nervousness they’ll get robbed or out of bored from a 10-12 hour shift).

    Toronto taxis for example have a flap over the front seat that the passengers in the back can read seat mostly stating their rights including being QUIET. I have no idea why our local drivers blah blah blah. “So what do you do for a living? How much money do you make? My girlfriend just left me. Are you hiring?” Just f’ing drive.

    Customer service is number one with me. I have a ten dollar bill to get me home (same place, point A to point B), some drivers can do it for $8, other drivers do it for $9.45. How much of a tip you want to make, drop me off then get the next fare? I’m not an angry person but I do everything I can within reason not to slap them in the back of their head “do your f’ing job”. Really how hard is it? I’m not interested in being your buddy, just drive.

    I get so agitated by our locals who try to be a driver meanwhile people from much larger cities or even other countries come here to drive and get the job done right; meanwhile our local tits I almost dread taking a taxi for fear I get them. You can politely imply you don’t want to talk, just get me where I want to go then they get all bitchy. Ugh.

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