Yellowknife councillors are poised to extend the age limit for vehicles operated by taxi drivers to provide relief during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Currently, under the city’s livery licence bylaw – which governs taxis and chauffeurs in the municipality – vehicles can be no older than nine years. City staff said that limit ensures vehicles are mechanically fit to protect public safety.
In October, a taxi driver asked the city to consider temporarily extending that limit by one year, saying the Covid-19 pandemic has caused drivers to lose revenue and buying a new vehicle was now more difficult and expensive.
In a letter to mayor and council, Walid Mohamed, who works for City Cab, said his vehicle is approaching the nine-year mark and a one-year extension would allow him more time to find a replacement.
“This is a very bad time to try [to] replace a vehicle in a struggling marketplace,” he wrote.
“Safety is of course the paramount concern for passengers and the public. Ongoing semi-annual safety checks could ensure that only safe vehicles are allowed to continue for the one-year temporary extension.”
Mohamed pointed out that the City of Toronto, which sets its age limit for taxis at seven years, passed a two-year moratorium on enforcement of that requirement in December 2020.
Councillors appeared supportive of Mohamed’s proposal at a Monday meeting, while some argued the age limit on taxis should be removed from the bylaw entirely.
Councillor Niels Konge feels the focus should fall on maintenance of a vehicle rather than its age, adding safety can be determined through inspections.
“I think that would be quite reasonable. We’re keeping the public safe. We’re letting the entrepreneurs decide whether or not they need new taxis,” he said.
Councillors Robin Williams, Steve Payne and Cynthia Mufandaedza agreed.
According to Mitchell Roland, manager of the city’s municipal enforcement division, every taxi in the city must be inspected by both a licensed mechanic and city staff once a year for six years. After that point, vehicles must be inspected twice a year.
Roland said those inspections include examination of a vehicle’s windshield, brakes, tires, lights, door, handles, seatbelts, horn, cleanliness, and whether fare meters are accurate. Any issues noted during an inspection have to be addressed before a taxi is permitted to operate.
Councillor Shauna Morgan said any decision to axe the age limit for taxis in Yellowknife would be better suited as part of a more comprehensive overhaul of the livery licence bylaw, which is already set to take place later this year. Morgan suggested approving the temporary one-year extension would be adequate while city staff do more research.
Mayor Rebecca Alty and councillors Julian Morse and Stacie Smith said they preferred the 10-year option.
City councillors will discuss the issue further, and formally vote on whether to approve the temporary one-year extension, at their next council meeting on February 28.