News

City eyes new fines for bad vehicle for hire driver behaviour



The City of Winnipeg could soon impose fines for “inappropriate” behaviour by vehicles for hire drivers to match several new bylaw offences, such as making lewd comments or demanding a tip.

As the regulator for local taxis, ride-hailing vehicles and limousines, the city’s vehicles for hire division is proposing $250 fines be added for driver conduct that doesn’t warrant criminal charges, licence suspensions or cancellations, but could result in “disagreements and an unsafe trip.”

A $500 fine is also proposed for drivers who use handheld electronic devices while driving, as is a $250 penalty for taxi drivers who fail to issue receipts upon request or refuse to let passengers pay by credit card.

A $500 fine is also proposed for drivers who use handheld electronic devices while driving, as is a $250 penalty for taxi drivers who fail to issue receipts upon request or refuse to let passengers pay by credit card.

The changes would require full city council approval.

A city report notes the fines would be a possible for drivers when an investigation finds they: sexually harass a passenger or make lewd remarks toward them; insult, abuse, intimidate or threaten a passenger; ask a passenger for a tip or gratuity or indicate one is expected or required; fail to release a passenger from the vehicle at the passenger’s request; or accept or ask for collateral toward a fare payment.

One long-time taxi driver lashed out the proposed penalties, arguing they focus on raising money through fines.


<p>TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p>
Gurmail Mangat accused the city of putting too much blame on drivers for disputes, when customers sometimes also break the rules.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Gurmail Mangat accused the city of putting too much blame on drivers for disputes, when customers sometimes also break the rules.

“It is a cash grab. We are not that rich to (afford) those fines,” said Gurmail Mangat, a driver who serves as president of Unicity Taxi.

Mangat, who said he’s driven a cab for decades, accused the city of putting too much blame on drivers for disputes, when customers sometimes also break the rules.

On average, he said it’s common for Winnipeg drivers to have at least one passenger fail to pay for their ride each day.

However, the city’s vehicles for hire manager said the bylaw does address poor behaviour among passengers, including a $500 penalty for those who fail to pay a fare.

“It is a cash grab. We are not that rich to (afford) those fines.” – Gurmail Mangat, president of Unicity Taxi

“We recognize that fare-jumping is a concern. We’ve consistently said to the industry: we want to work with you on trying to solve this, trying to find ways to make it better,” said Grant Heather.

That rule can be tough to enforce, though, since the city would typically need information about the passenger involved, such as a phone number, name and/or address to impose the fine, he said.

Heather added taxi companies have often not provided those details.

If the proposed fines, which would apply to all vehicles for hire drivers, are approved by council, the penalties would only be issued after an investigation, which could include evidence from video footage, witness statements and/or inspections, Heather stressed.

“From a bylaw offence standpoint, we’re trying to change behaviours… and ensure that the safety of people is paramount, (including for) drivers.”

“From a bylaw offence standpoint, we’re trying to change behaviours… and ensure that the safety of people is paramount, (including for) drivers.” – Grant Heather

Heather said poor driver conduct is quite rare, since vehicles for hire made about 4.3 million trips in 2021 and the city received just 41 complaints about service and driver conduct last year.

He noted that relatively small number of complaints may also include initial allegations later deemed unfounded.

“When you talk magnitude, the number of complaints (compared) to the number of trips, there’s not a whole lot there. But when somebody is made to feel unsafe by comments or actions, one time is too many in our opinion,” said Heather.


<p>MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
In an email, the Winnipeg Community Taxi Association noted the industry practices a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

In an email, the Winnipeg Community Taxi Association noted the industry practices a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour.

In an email, the Winnipeg Community Taxi Association also noted the “vast majority” of trips “involve a positive experience for the passenger and driver.” The statement noted the industry practices a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour.

Coun. Matt Allard, chairman of council’s public works committee, said he hopes to hear more feedback from the industry before deciding how to vote on the matter.

At first glance, the St. Boniface councillor said the proposal appears to offer a promising method to ensure a respectful environment within all vehicles for hire.

“It’s now putting some regulatory teeth associated to the various offences, so I think it’s positive. I don’t think that any of these things should be occurring in our vehicles for hire,” said Allard.

The public works committee is set to cast the first vote on the proposed changes Feb. 8.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.




Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close