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 Post subject: sell a plate?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 11:30 am 
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Taxi bylaw change would allow owners to sell city-issued plates after four years

By Kevin Werner
News Staff


After four years, a solution may have been found to satisfy Hamilton's angry taxi drivers.

Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla introduced a motion at this week's council meeting to amend the proposed taxi bylaw that will allow owners of city-issued taxi plates to sell them after five years.

Another condition Mr. Merulla is stipulating is that the person purchasing the taxi plate must meet city requirements.

"This has been a difficult four years, but I think this will resolve the issue," said Mr. Merulla, who has also been chair of the license sub-committee. "We have reduced the protesters from 500 to about 20."

About 30 taxi drivers listened last weekend in council chambers as politicians debated the merits of the proposed taxi bylaw.

The predominate objection to the revised bylaw is the elimination of a waiting list of city-issued taxi plates. There are 119 people on the list, with some anxiously waiting for a plate over 40 years.

Since taxi drivers do not have a pension or other benefits, they have become dependent upon owning a taxi plate which could become their retirement package. An owner of a plate could lease it out for $1,000 a month or sell it for about $110,000.

Under the city's revised taxi bylaw, though, the waiting list would be scrapped. Instead, the city would issue 30 new taxi license plates over a 10 year period. Hamilton would eventually have about 430 taxi license plates in circulation.

Doug Rose, city manager of standards and license, said the reason for the change is to make owners of taxi license plates more accountable. The city will require that owners of the plates also work 35 hours per week so there will not be any absentee owners.

"We are forcing them to work," he said. "It gets rid of the absentee owner; it supports owner/drivers."

Other requirements under the new taxi bylaw include an upgraded driver training program; improved customer training sessions; mandatory cameras; and regular city inspections, regulations that all taxi operators applaud.

In a special planning and economic development committee meeting, politicians voted 3-2 to approve the recommendation. Councillors Terry Whitehead and Bob Bratina attempted to table the controversial section that eliminates the waiting list, but were defeated by their colleagues.

Politicians were scheduled to vote at their Jan. 12 council meeting.

But taxi operators threatened legal action if politicians went ahead and approved the new taxi bylaw.

Manfred Rudolph, who was representing one of the angry cabbies in the audience, said if politicians approve the bylaw, he would seriously consider calling for a judicial review.

Hamilton's fight with the taxi cab industry mirrors the legal battles Toronto has had with its cabbies soon after amalgamation. In Toronto, council introduced non-transferable Ambassador plates. Cabbies challenged the bylaw in court.

Toronto's two-tier Ambassador program was introduced with non-transferable and transferable plates working side-by-side. The program includes a high level of education for cabbies, and drivers are required to have new vehicles.

Hamilton city solicitor Dave Beck told politicians the city is "within its legal authority" to establish a new taxi bylaw.

Prior to amalgamation, Hamilton was ranked as the third worst city in the province in regulating the tax industry, said Mr. Rose.

"Now we are one of the best," he said.

Mr. Merulla said he has discussed his proposed amendment to the bylaw with a number of cab drivers, and they are satisfied.

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