Taxi bylaw aims to provide more transit options in Brant County

Danny Teves got a surprise while sitting in the drive-thru of a local Tim Hortons in April.

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In line ahead of the general manager of Grand River Cab sat a taxi from a Brantford company with two plates — one licensed with the City of Brantford, and another with Brant County.

“What the hell?” Teves remembers thinking.

“I kept hearing about it,” Teves told The Spectator, but until then, he hadn’t seen a dual-licensed cab.

Paris-based Grand River Cab has been operating in the county for more than 17 years, and in that time, cabs have been licensed to operate in either Brant County or Brantford, but not both.

But an update to the county’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw in May 2022 removed the requirement for taxi brokers to have a dispatch office in the county, which opened up licensing to cabs based — and already licensed — in Brantford and beyond.

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Previously, a taxi from Brantford could take a rider to the county, but once there, wouldn’t be permitted to pick up passengers traveling within Brant.

With no bus service, the county has limited public transportation options. The municipality has a subsidized app-based service delivered by Via Transportation that allows residents to pre-book shared rides at $5 a ride. The service operates weekends from 6 am to 9 pm and on weekends from 8 am to 6 pm

While there are some rideshare companies — like Uber — operating in the county, they aren’t as readily available as in larger cities.

Greg Bergeron, director of enforcement and regulatory services for the county, told The Spectator as a “rapidly growing municipality and popular destination,” the county wants to ensure there are “suitable transportation options for residents and visitors.”

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Given technological advancements and various ways people can book rides now, having a dispatch office in the county as a license requirement was “antiquated,” Bergeron said.

The county said there are 15 licensed cabs in Brant County through three brokers — Grand River Cab, Premium Greenline Taxi (based in Simcoe) and Easy Ride Taxi (based out of Brantford).

Now that he knows about the change, Teves worries that cabs responding to calls out of their area could end up “cherry picking” fares that are more lucrative and evolving the ones that don’t appeal to them.

“We invest in the county, we have an office in the county, we buy vehicles in the county,” he said about his company, which has four licensed cabs and an airport shuttle.

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Teves said while the change may have been to provide more options to county residents, his view is “it only benefits the city.”

Brantford has three licensed taxi brokers — Brant Taxi, Bell City Cabs, and EasyRide Taxi — who hold all of the 94 city-issued taxi license places, according to a report presented to city councilors in March.

However, the city is poised to change their regulations in July, which would permit Brant County cabs to apply for city licenses.

But Teves said even if Grand River Cab is able to apply for a license in Brantford, he’s not interested.

“I’d rather expand here than go to Brantford,” he said.

If more city cabs apply for dual licenses, he fears it could have the unintended consequence of limiting transportation options in Brant County, if Grand River Cab can’t stay afloat due to increased competition.

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“Our argument is that there needs to be dedicated taxis in the County of Brant,” to respond to local needs, Teves said.

While the county said Grand River Cab was involved in the consultation process around the change, Teves said from his perspective, the focus was on establishing the Brant Transit program, rather than the specific bylaw.

Bergeron told The Spectator they’ve “continued to receive correspondence” from Grand River Cab “or their lawyer” throughout the consultation process on the issue, and they are “more than willing” to meet with them “to hear their concerns and seek potential solutions.”

He said “very few” consumer complaints have come to the county since enacting the new bylaw, which has “safeguards” in place to protect the public, including annual police record checks for drivers, annual safety standard certificates for vehicles, inspection authorities that include removing a taxi from service, and the ability to suspend or revoke licenses on specific grounds.

For his part, Teves said he’s determined to keep serving Brant County.

“We’re doing our best to keep the business going. But in a year from now, who knows what’s going to happen.”

Celeste Percy-Beauregard is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter based at the Hamilton Spectator. The initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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