More cash for cabbies – Metro US

More cash for cabbies

A cab ride in Ottawa is about to become the most expensive in Canada — partly to help drivers pay for security cameras in their cars.

A city committee yesterday approved a 10 per cent increase to cab fares and an additional 10 cents-per-trip surcharge to cover the cost of installing mandatory security cameras in taxis, bringing the price of a five-kilometre trip in Ottawa to $11.71. That is 21 cents more than St. John’s, N.L., which currently has the most expensive cabs.

Yusef Al Mezel, president of the union representing the majority of Ottawa cab drivers, said the proposed new charges are needed to cope with rising fuel and insurance costs, and dispatch fees.

This would mark the first fare increase in Ottawa since 2005. At that time, the city also imposed a five-cent surcharge to each trip to raise money for cabbies to offset the costs of installing mandatory security cameras in coming years. However, Al Mezel said drivers used that money to offset other costs, and the union asked for a new 10-cent surcharge with this increase for the cameras.

Despite cab drivers’ protests about the cameras last February, a July 2 deadline to have them installed is looming.

“It’s a better deal than the old one, but we are still not happy because of the other issues involving the drivers,” Al Mezel said.

Al Mezel said drivers barely agreed to the cameras and only after Ottawa agreed to restrict the release of footage to police officers who were conducting a criminal investigation, and to back down on installing a ‘G-trigger feature’ that would activate the camera if the vehicle swerved sharply, or was in a collision.

To further assist drivers with the cameras, the city is agreeing to cover $485, interest free, leaving drivers to pay the remaining $700 per camera. The city’s portion will be recovered through collection fee surcharges.

Susan Jones, director of bylaw services, said Ottawa was the only city in Canada that had a cost-sharing arrangement for their taxi drivers’ security cameras.

“This is a uniquely creative deal that we are offering the industry,” she said.

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