Taxi ride-and-dash passengers a problem in Greater Victoria

Hoped-for Bill of Rights would allow cab drivers to ask for a deposit before the taxi leaves

Blue Bird taxicab driver Rakesh Kohli

Taxi drivers in the Capital Region, faced with the growing problem of ride-and-dash passengers, are seeking the right to ask for an up-front deposit payment before the trip begins.

A few months ago, Yellow Cab taxi driver Kuldeep Singh sat behind the wheel of his cab waiting for his passenger to return with the $30 fee for the trip.

“She said, ‘I’ll come back.’ So you wait for 15 to 20 minutes. She never comes,” the cabbie said. “She left a piece of I.D. (as collateral for payment) and the I.D. is still at the office.”

Singh says his experience is commonplace among drivers.

Blue Bird taxi driver Rakesh Kohli will never forget the time two young women got a free ride out of him.

“They asked me to go on Gorge Road and by the time I got to the Bay and Blanshard traffic light they just opened up the door and ran away,” Kohli said.

“What can I do?”

The situation has prompted the Greater Victoria Taxi Association, which represents upwards of 270 drivers, to head to the Mainland tomorrow (April 5) to request that the Passenger Transportation Board expand the Taxi Bill of Rights to the Capital Region.

In 2007, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure began developing the bill for Metro Vancouver, where more than 50 per cent of taxis in the province operate.

The statement of principles outlines expectations between passengers and drivers, including the right of drivers to refuse to transport a passenger if a deposit isn’t provided when requested.

Until the bill applies to the Capital Region, there is little drivers can do to recoup their financial losses, Singh said.

Drivers can file a police report, but some are loathe to spend upwards of an hour doing that, meaning that many cases go unreported, he said.

“Lots of drivers, for $10 or $15, they don’t bother.”

If police are called and there is proof, the passenger can be charged under the Criminal Code with the summary offence of fraud in relation to fares.

Drivers can ask to hold a customer’s I.D. while they go get cash. But only about 20 per cent have reclaimed this collateral at Yellow Cab, said Sandi Poulin, human resource and marketing manager for Yellow Cab of Victoria.

And in certain locations such as Sooke, where mobile debit machines don’t work, often drivers are left with an unpaid tab if a passenger doesn’t have cash.

“You can’t get on a (public transit) bus and say I’ll pay you next week or tomorrow,” Poulin said.

“No business would do that, yet it happens every day with all the (taxi companies), not just Yellow Cab.”

emccracken@vicnews.com