Despite objections from the local taxi company, the Whistler RCMP are standing behind a bylaw that would, among other things, require all Whistler cab drivers to take a 27-hour provincial TaxiHost program and carry chauffeurs permits.
The Vehicle for Hire Regulations bylaw was given its first and second readings at the May 6 council meeting, and then referred back to municipal staff who will consult with the taxi company before putting it goes to a public hearing.
According to Constable Lee Hamilton of the Whistler RCMP detachment, the bylaw is consistent with other bylaws already applied in the Lower Mainland, Victoria, and other major centres, including Kelowna and Kamloops.
"When I started this process I had everyone in favour of it with the exception of some cab drivers, but the general public is happy with the idea. Even some of the taxi drivers are happy with the idea. Most are concerned about the professionalism of the industry, and this will just bolster it," says Hamilton.
Hamilton has received several complaints about local taxi drivers over the years. Some said the drivers were going too fast and ignoring traffic signs and lights, while others said the drivers had poor attitudes, used bad language and played their music too loud.
"Realistically, these people are supposed to be leaders in our community," says Hamilton, who has been working on the bylaw for the past two years. "They are professional drivers and therefore theres a higher expectation of their driving and attitudes. Theres got to be some form of accountability if youre going to classify yourself as a professional driver."
Hamilton says most drivers are good, "but like everything, its a few exceptions that are spoiling things for everyone."
Other provisions within the bylaw would regulate fare prices and require vehicles to pass regular safety inspections.
The taxi company has complained that the new bylaw is going to make it harder to find new drivers. Currently there is no Justice Institute of B.C. TaxiHost program in Whistler, which means that drivers may have to take the course in Vancouver, possibly at the taxi companys expense, in order to obtain Chauffeurs Permits.
Chauffeurs Permits are issued by the local police force, which in Whistlers case would be issued by the local RCMP, after conducting background checks on applicants driving records and criminal histories. Certain kinds of offences, such as sexual assault, prevent applicants from receiving a permit.
Whistler Taxi Ltd., which includes Sea to Sky Taxi and Blackcomb Taxi, already requires that all drivers carry Class 4 commercial drivers licenses, which are needed to operate limousines, ambulances, and smaller school buses.
Drivers are also required by the provincial Motor Carriers Act to provide regular maintenance of their vehicles. At the most recent inspection on May 14, all 19 vehicles checked passed.
"Overall the cab company and drivers are doing a good job of ensuring that the conditions of the cabs are up to a good enough standard within the province," says Hamilton.
The company would not comment publicly on the bylaw until all of the owners have had the opportunity to discuss the issue, obtain legal advice, and agree on the best course of action.
Hamilton acknowledges that the bylaw may make it harder for the company to find drivers, but said it was "part of doing business in Whistler. We have a certain standard to maintain.
"Its a realistic concern, but ultimately its going to improve the types of drivers they have. If you improve the type of drivers you have, youre going to get fewer complaints, the conditions of your vehicles are going to be in better order so youre going to have less downtime. The people you do get are going to really want the job."
The municipality is also looking at ways to curb the after-hours rowdiness at the taxi loop, something the taxi drivers have asked for in the past. A plan should be introduced at council within the month.