News Local

Vancouver's cab fares are tops in North America

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Taxi cabs line up along the street on Canada Place in Vancouver, Wednesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Taxi cabs line up along the street on Canada Place in Vancouver, Wednesday. (CARMINE MARINELLI, 24 HOURS)

Vancouver's cab fares are the priciest of North America's largest cities, but cab drivers insist there's no money to be made despite zero cab licence increases over the last 25 years.

Vancouver's taxi rates charge passengers $1.89 per kilometre, a fixed rate all four of its cab companies follow. In a study released earlier this month, Seattle-based think tank Sightline said this number is more costly than American cities like Los Angeles and Seattle, which charge passengers $1.67 and $1.55 per kilometre respectively. Vancouver even beats out costs in taxi-dominated New York City.

"If there's more demand for something then the supply would naturally increase, but here there's some molasses slowing things down and preventing that market pressure from creating new cabs," researcher Vince Houmes said of Vancouver's high taxi prices.

He said the city shouldn't have driven prices up with such a "paltry number" of cabs.

But local cab drivers disagree, saying there's not enough passengers and too many taxis.

"At 3 a.m. you'll find no cabs on Friday and Saturday nights, but any other time . we have more cabs waiting here for passengers than passengers themselves," said Vancouver Taxi driver Rishamdeep Singh.

He said the trend started about four years ago when the recession hit business travellers in the pocketbooks.

"There's a number of factors, especially the Canada Line," Singh said. "Cab business isn't like it used to be before."

He said that despite the high fares, he's lucky to bring home $100 a day.

"On the whole, I would say from the money we make, we take about 40 to 45 per cent," Singh said. "If it's a $10 fee, I'm probably going to make four to five dollars."

Cheap car-sharing services like Zipcar, Modo and Car2Go have also added to the problem, he said.

"All these companies, they are really advertising themselves . we are having all this business being stolen away."

Vancouver has 588 cabs, a number unchanged since 1986 due to restrictions in Vancouver's vehicle-for-hire bylaw.