UPDATE: Winnipeg city council passed the bylaw with a 10-6 vote.
Transit fares are going up in Winnipeg, and buses may have to share the diamond lane with taxi drivers.
Winnipeg's vehicle-for-hire bylaw is being voted on at city hall today, and it includes an amendment, announced earlier this week by Mayor Brian Bowman, for a one-year pilot project in which taxis will be able to use diamond lanes, just like buses and cyclists.
The Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition's Scott McFadyen told reporters at city hall yesterday they see it as a positive move, but it isn't one of the 23 recommendations they made to the city.
"It's a side issue for us, to be honest. The diamond lanes, you know, we have asked for this previously, but of the 23 recommendations that we put forward to the city on the bylaws, the vast majority of those recommendations were related to safety. So in our minds, this is a distraction," said McFadyen.
Councillor Janice Lukes told reporters yesterday that engineers have said twice over the past three years they don't recommend taxis in diamond lanes, citing slower transit and safety issues. Lukes was chair of the public works committee from 2014-2016.
"To hear this come out in one of these amendments... is really concerning. It, again, shows how the engineers are just being over-ridden by decisions that, really, I have to question," said Lukes.
Mayor Brian Bowman says the legal framework has changed, with the city to assume control over taxicab regulations on March 1st. He says the model here is based largely on Edmonton.
Another amendment proposed this week is a three cent safety surcharge for all Personal Transportation Provider dispatchers, with the revenue going to the promotion and marketing of safety measures, and the passenger rights and complaints process. This surcharge will not apply to taxis, which are required to have safety shields installed, while PTP vehicles are not. Other amendments include: removing a 20-year limitation period for transferable taxi licenses, and introducing 120 new taxi licenses 60 at a time -- one batch on March 1st, the other at the end of 2018; the licenses would be added using a lottery-based approach.
McFadyen said yesterday the WCTC views the amendments as an acknowledgment there are some issues with the bylaw.