KELOWNA - Fern Brittany gets off shift well after busses stop running and has few other options but to use one of the city’s taxi companies to get home.
She says Kelowna's taxis are the most expensive, compared to other places she has lived.
"To cab from my work to my home, which is only five kilometres — is just under $20,” she says. "It's madness.”
She’s not wrong in her experience — Kelowna’s ‘harmonized’ rate for taxis is among the highest in the country. The base rate for a Kelowna taxi is $3.50 for the first 44 metres. That’s what a customer pays as soon as they get into the vehicle. After that, it costs 10 cents for each additional 44 metres.
In Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, the charge is $3.20 for the first 54 metres, and 10 cents for each additional 54 metres.
Equate that to the rest of the country and it is one of the highest rates.
To put this into perspective, a 14.5 km trip from the Kelowna International Airport to the Delta Grand downtown costs around $36.10. In Vancouver, a taxi traveling the same distance - from Vancouver International Airport to the downtown core, costs $25.87, according to World Taxi Meter.
According to a 2010 study, Toronto used to hold the 20th position for the most expensive cabs in the world. Since 2015 however, Kelowna cabs have surpassed even Toronto taxi rates, which only went down when ride-sharing service Uber began operations there. Uber is barred from B.C. while it considers options.
iNFOnews.ca has confirmed Kelowna rates are higher than Calgary, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Kamloops ($2.90), Penticton ($2.75) and Vernon ($3.45) among others, (although it appears to be more expensive in smaller centres like Peace River and St. John, which have starting rates at $4.55.)
The B.C. Passenger Transportation Board regulates taxi fares in the province. Taxi companies have to apply to the board if they want a rate increase. Vancouver and the Lower Mainland updated their costs in March 2016 but Kelowna fares have not changed since early 2013, when companies voted to ‘harmonize' their rates, meaning there’s no price competition among cab companies.
Some local cab companies dispute the numbers. A spokesperson for Kelowna Cabs says she’s never had any complaints about rates. Rory Anderson of Checkmate Cabs says fares reflect yearly increases in cost of living and are solely dictated by the transportation board.
"Often times I receive comments from visitors about how well our prices compare to that of the coast, as well as taxi prices in the States," he says.
Sydney Brown is another regular Kelowna taxi user. She says even though taxis are expensive, public transit is not an efficient option.
"If you have a lot of time to spare to go a short distance, then sure," she says. "When the busses were on strike, friends of mine who go to UBCO didn't go to class because they found it would be cheaper to rent a car than to cab to and from UBCO once a day."
Brown says because she has lived in Kelowna most of her life so the taxi prices don't stand out to her.
"I just budget it into a night of going out,” she says. "I think It would be more frustrating coming from a big city. The process of catching cabs frustrates me."
She suggests having lowered rates at peak times in order to encourage a safe ride home.
"I think there should be weekend rates between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., Thursday to Saturday because there is a lot of pick up traffic downtown and it would discourage drinking and driving,” she says.
Kelowna made national headlines last month when it was singled out by Statistics Canada as having the second highest rate of impaired drivers of any city in the country.
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