The town will be moving forward with a new $84,000 per year, two-year contract with Ace Cabs to provide accessible door-to-door fare-based taxi service for residents.
During council’s regular meeting on March 27, councillors gave final approval for the town to enter into a non-standard procurement contract with Ace Cabs to provide the service, which will cost the town $63,000 for 2023 and $84,000 in 2024.
The change comes on the heels of community members with disabilities calling on council to extend transit hours since the town moved to their TransitPLUS model in mid-December. Currently, both regular and accessible public transit options operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Under the previous accessible transit contract with Ace Cabs, accessible service was available 24/7, although rides after 9 p.m. were required to be pre-booked.
“This is a hard one. It’s clearly not a perfect solution,” said Mayor Yvonne Hamlin during Monday’s meeting. “It’s costly, but it does give us the service that we want now. I’m hopeful as our TransitPLUS service gets established, we can expand and switch over to our own service in the future.”
“We are where we are now, so I’ll support this,” she said.
Although the town will be spending $84,000 per year to subsidize the service, users will still have to pay regular fare rates through Ace Cabs to use that service.
The funds for 2023 will be coming from the town’s operating contingency reserve in 2023. The $84,000 for 2024 will be included in the 2024 budget.
In previous discussions between the town and Ace Cabs, the town says Ace Cabs confirmed they are not able to support or deliver an accessible taxi service that only operates during the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. and the company was only willing to offer an accessible taxi service to the town under a two-year contract with full hours of operation.
Multiple interview requests sent by CollingwoodToday to Ace Cabs were not returned.
During council discussion on Monday, Coun. Christopher Baines said he was in support of extending services, but would be voting against the motion.
“The first (reason) is cost,” said Baines, noting that he estimated it would cost roughly half as much to extend the town’s TransitPLUS service. “The other is motivation and engagement. This provider has grudgingly provided us with a quote. I think that speaks to management and staff being less engaged in providing this service.”
Coun. Deb Doherty agreed. She suggested postponing making a decision on the matter until council receives an update from staff on the current taxi licensing bylaw, which is planned for this year.
“It may open up opportunities for more competition from the private sector to support this community,” she said. “We’re not giving ourselves an opportunity to see what we can achieve without this fairly significant investment.”
However, Doherty did not propose an amendment to defer the motion.
Coun. Kathy Jeffery raised concerns about past use statistics not being fully provided by Ace Cabs. During discussion on the matter at the committee level on March 13, Hamlin noted that Ace Cabs was not able to provide concrete numbers on exactly how many riders were using the late-night service prior to Dec. 2022.
“I just think an unqualified $84,000 for what could be a very rare usage, to me, is really, a little bit abusive,” said Jeffery. “I want to provide it, but I don’t want to be abused in the cost in doing so.”
Coun. Brandon Houston said it was important to him that council make a decision.
“We’ve been discussing this for a few months now. We need to make a decision so we can fill this gap,” he said, noting that he felt the price was fair as Ace Cabs hadn’t increased their prices since before the pandemic.
Councillors voted 6-2 in favour of proceeding with a two-year non-standard procurement contract with Ace Cabs to provide individual accessible on-demand taxi service, with Baines and Doherty opposed. Deputy Mayor Tim Fryer declared a conflict on the matter and did not vote.