Vancouver taxi service more expensive than NYC, LA, and Dallas

Have you ever wondered why taking a taxi in Vancouver seems more expensive than in other cities?

As part of its Making Sustainability Legal research project, the Seattle-based Sightline Institute looked at taxi regulation in the Pacific Northwest’s largest cities.

What the think tank found is that restrictions on the issuance of new taxicab licenses in Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are keeping the availability of cabs low and the fares high.

According to Sightline, in the city of Vancouver, there is one cab per 1,000 residents and the cost of a typical, five-mile (eight-kilometre) ride is US$21.57.

This means cab fare in Vancouver is more expensive than in San Diego, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., most of which have more cabs per capita. (Sightline didn’t look at other Canadian cities.)

Sightline likens what it sees as the Soviet-style suppression of new taxis in Northwest cities to a hypothetical situation in which governments capped the number of pizza delivery cars.

A post on the institute’s blog explains:

In Vancouver, the Passenger Transportation Board’s rules are slightly more flexible than Portland’s. They have allowed a trickle of new cab licenses over the years, but they have screened out many applicants, too. A Vancouver cab company seeking a new license is supposed to prove the taxi market isn’t already too full, and that can be a complex question to answer. In other markets, entrepreneurs figure out the answer to their own satisfaction, then see if they’re right by risking their own time and money. New pizza parlors do not have to show city regulators that their delivery service is needed.

Worse, in Vancouver, cab companies may petition against a competitor’s new license. When Pizza Hut applies for an extra delivery license for the Super Bowl, in other words, Domino’s has a right to challenge the application. In 2010, the board rejected some 43 percent of requests for new permits, despite the city’s high taxi fares and paltry cab numbers.

Note that the aforementioned Passenger Transportation Board is a tribunal appointed by the provincial government.

The poster child for affordable taxis, D.C., has no limit on the number of taxis, more than 12 cabs per 1,000 residents, and a typical fare of US$11.50.

To Sightline, it’s not just about cheaper cab fares. The institute says affordable taxis enable families to ditch that second car and help fill gaps in public transit, which can lead to greener commutes.