112 temporary taxis to hit city streets for holiday season

News - taxi

More taxicabs will be on the road in Winnipeg starting Nov. 2. THE PROJECTOR/AUSTIN GRABISH

The snow hasn’t fallen yet, but taxi companies in Winnipeg are already prepping for the holiday rush.

The Taxicab Board has approved 112 seasonal business taxicab licences. The extra cabs are set to stay on the road until the end of next March.

The city’s largest two taxicab companies have snagged the bulk of the licences with 54 going to Unicity and 41 to Duffy’s Taxi.

The remaining 17 licences are being split between independent taxi companies and cabbies. Ten have been specifically allocated for accessible vehicles, giving those living with disabilities a few more transportation options.

Last year, there were only 95 seasonal taxis in Winnipeg. There weren’t any devoted to accessible vehicles, according to an October news release from the Taxicab Board.

These seasonal licences are meant to address the annual shortage of cabs in the city around the holidays.

Winnipeggers have long complained about the city’s taxicab shortage and many have been part of a recent push for cab-alternative Uber to come to Winnipeg.

In an attempt to put the brakes on Uber’s entrance to the city, Duffy’s and Unicity joined forces in September to create the Winnipeg Taxi Alliance.

“There’s an impression that there’s been no expansion of the number of vehicles available for service, and that’s not true,” said Taxicab Board chair David Sanders.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the extent of any shortage in the city, said Winnipeg Taxi Alliance spokesperson Luc Lewandoski, who spoke on behalf of both Unicity and Duffy’s. 

“It’s not an easy number to come up with. You can’t build a taxi sector number around 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve the same way you can on 6 a.m. Monday morning,” said Lewandoski.

But it doesn’t take long to find complaints about cabs from Winnipeggers.

“Sometimes the cab drivers are rude, but it’s hard also to catch a cab,” said Lisa Reid, a computer applications student. “There’s just not enough in Winnipeg.”

Reid said she takes a cab at least once a month. Not even halfway through the semester, Reid said she was late to class thanks to a cab that arrived 20 minutes late.

The temporary-licensed cabs will be on the street 24 hours a day, Lewandoski said, with drivers rotating shifts every eight hours to help meet the demand.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” he said.

Regular drivers working extra shifts and part-time cabbies with a Class 4 driver’s licence will staff the temporary cabs.