Bill of rights offers one for the money

Taxi drivers hope clear rights will make collecting fares easier

Taxi advocates around the province are insisting it’s time for Victoria’s cabs to display the Taxi Bill of Rights to promote driver and rider accountability, especially during nighttime pick ups.

Taxi advocates around the province are insisting it’s time for Victoria’s cabs to display the Taxi Bill of Rights to promote driver and rider accountability, especially during nighttime pick ups.

Taxi drivers hope clear rights will make collecting fares easier

Don’t run — that’s the best advice Mohan Kang says he has for fellow taxi drivers who suffer fare-evading passengers.

“Never run after those passengers, even if it seems so obvious or unfair. It’s illegal to confine or chase someone, and you’ll get in more trouble than they will,” he says.

Kang, the 14-term president of the B.C. Taxi Association, drove his own taxi in Victoria for nearly 30 years until 2006. He can still remember one man who had him drive all the way from the Sticky Wicket pub downtown to the outskirts of Langford, only to open the door and run away as fast as he could, taking his fare along with him.

“In those days, that was big money, but it happens,” says Kang. “It’s very unpleasant, and it’s not fair to the drivers and their families who suffer for it.”

Little wonder then that Kang, the B.C. Taxi Association and the Greater Victoria Taxi Association are in full support of the new push to see all Greater Victoria cabs required to display the Taxi Bill of Rights in their vehicles as of Oct. 1 — a bill that was created in late 2007, and has been displayed in Vancouver cabs for the past four years.

The bill clearly states the rights of drivers and passengers, including the driver’s right to request fare in advance if there is a concern that the passenger may not pay. It also helps drivers avoid being questioned when refusing service by allowing drivers to point out specific regulations.

While Victoria cabs are still waiting on pending approval from the Ministry of Transportation to display the bill, Kang foresees no reason the ministry would turn down the move. The only real question is why the bill hasn’t been required sooner.

“This is not a new thing — the Taxi Bill of Rights was brought into service because we were seeing these incidents happen, especially in Vancouver,” says Kang. “In Victoria, however, it seemed there wasn’t the same interest. Now, maybe a lot of things have changed, but this is something most drivers only see at night.”

Kang and other advocates of the bill have said the change benefits both passengers and drivers by making obligations and responsibilities transparent. Just being able to point to a piece of paper stating the law does have an impact, says Kang. Although many cabs do host cameras inside the vehicles, due to privacy laws these can only be accessed by police and not typically be used to identify fare-evaders. Asking for “cash on the dash” ahead of time is often the driver’s only defence, Kang says.

“There is a certain amount of risk to this job, of course, but displaying the bill is one really good way to be up front and give drivers a recourse by law,” says Kang. “I’ve been in the taxi industry a long time, and I know how important it is that everyone knows they have rights.” M

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