Despite immense pushback from the taxi industry, Kingston Area Taxi Commission (KATC) is continuing to try to assure the city’s cabs adopt a rent hike that was meant to go into effect on Monday.
As of Monday however, Kingston’s two taxi fleets in Modern Taxi and Amey’s Taxi said they would be refusing to implement the rate hikes.
The new rates proposed by KATC are mainly based off of a public survey as well as a petition from drivers saying they need a “substantial raise increase.”
Mark Greenwood, owner of Amey’s Taxi Company, says the Commission took that petition and applied its own meaning to the word substantial.
“Substantial is 20%,” Greenwood said.
“They took that poll and said ‘well we’re supported by the industry’… a 40% increase is ridiculous!”
Greenwood said that only 117 people participated in KATC’s public survey, meaning that “over 50%” declaring this raise makes sense could represent only 60 people.
Greenwood says his company, alongside Modern Taxi, is choosing to defy the orders of the Commission as a way to look out for the better interest of both drivers and customers.
He says customers have already reached out to give thanks for not implementing the hike, saying they didn’t know how they would continue to afford taking cabs to get around.
Even as many in the taxi industry say the hike will desperately hurt their business, KATC is not relenting.
Greenwood says he received a letter from KATC informing him if taxis don’t adjust their meters to comply with new tariffs by May 14, the company and its drivers could face a suspension.
The letter states that the changes to rates were made at the “urgent” request of Greenwood and others in the industry.
Greenwood says though, if they had listened to the industry, a more reasonable 20% rate would be implemented that would allow the city’s drivers to remain competitive with rideshares like Uber.
He says a 40% increase prices them out of the market.
One Amey’s driver, Victor Hill, said despite rates not spiking as had been planned, that business for drivers has already been hurt by the threat alone.
“After announcing the increase, we have experienced approximately a 30-40% drop in ridership, thus a drop in income,” Hill said.
“We are starting to recover slowly… As long as the rates stay the same or only increase 20% we should be fine… more than that and a lot of owners and drivers will suffer.”
KATC said in an email that brokers are required to implement any fare changes, and “were in attendance at the meeting and suggested an April 11, 2022 date for implementation of the fare changes.”
The email continues that over 200 responses to their outreach supported a “significant increase”, though just how significant is not outlined.
The Commission added that there will be provisions for seniors, students and personal support workers in fare review which will be considered on April 20.
Greenwood says he plans to send a letter to city council, imploring them to step in and stop what he thinks will be the death of Kingston’s taxi industry.