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Cabbies may boycott Yellowknife airport

Daniel T'seleie
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 19/04) - Yellowknife cab drivers say they will stop servicing the airport if a controversial scheme to charge taxi companies $10,000 a year for parking spots goes ahead.


Taxi cab owner Richard Leblanc suggests, with costs going up, the spring might be a good time for a passenger fare increase. - John Curran/NNSL photo

"We can live without the airport," said cab owner and driver Richard Leblanc after talking over news of the levy with a group of his colleagues.

"I don't know how people will get downtown - they can take the bus I guess - but we won't pay to park there."

The Department of Transportation has recently instituted a licensing fee for cab companies to use the taxi parking stalls in front of the Yellowknife Airport terminal building.

"It's not feasible -- it's not reasonable," said Sherry Graham, office manager for Diamond Cabs.

She said the cost would have to be passed on to the individual car owners. With 31 cars in its fleet, the fee would work out to more than $320 each.

Hard to swallow

That's a cost that car-owning drivers will be hard pressed to pay.

"It's going to hurt," said Leblanc. "Especially with the cost of gas going up by three cents ... and my insurance is more than $3,200 a year."

The official notice sent to cab companies said, "re-initiating a licensing system for the provision of taxi services is seen as a move towards bringing the Yellowknife Airport in line with practices conducted throughout the rest of Canada."

Graham said cab fares from airports in large cities like Vancouver can be in excess of $60, while the average in Yellowknife is $10. The Vancouver airport does charge cab companies for the right to wait at its taxi stalls, but the fee is not a flat rate. It is based on how many vehicles will be using the spots.

When contacted, a spokesperson for the NWT Department of Transportation said it is simply carrying on with policy.

"In the past there was a fee structure in place that would allow them to access the taxi stand," said Cole Crook, commercial development officer for the Airports Division, "We want to re-institute it."

Prior to 1997 there was a licensing system in place at the airport. He would not offer any more information, but authorities from Yellowknife cab companies said previously only one taxi service was licensed to use the stalls at the airport.

Doesn't apply to shuttles

The fee does not apply to Raven Tours shuttle service. "We have a parking spot by the airport building," said Kenji Gomi, manager of reservations for Raven Tours. "We haven't got any information on this (licensing fee) from the airport."

That doesn't sit well with the folks who will have to pay the cost.

"It's not really fair," said Leblanc. The shuttle buses, "should have to pay a little bit and lower our cost."

Unlicensed cabs will be allowed to drop people off at the terminal, and pick them up provided the customer calls them directly to request a car.

"We will wait for our customers to phone," Graham said. "We're not going to be signing up for this."

If other cab companies refuse to pay as well, no cabs will be allowed to wait at the airport. This isn't exactly serving the public interest, she said.

-- with files from John Curran