On Friday afternoon I couldn’t get my cat to an emergency appointment at the SPCA for veterinarian care because I couldn’t get a taxi [“Burnaby council expected to advise Uber that it’s ineligible for a business licence”, web-only]. I can’t afford downtown veterinarian care and the cross-town trek is my only option.
I preplanned, knowing how busy the afternoon. I called Yellow Cabs (my cab company of choice—until now) and booked a taxi for 4 p.m. (a full hour before I needed to be at my destination). At 3:50, I phoned to make sure a car was on its way and I was told, “It will be put in the system at 3:55.”
I told the dispatcher of the urgency of the situation. I called every 10 minutes for the next 30 minutes and was told that my pick-up had been marked as first priority. At 4:30, my last call, I talked to a dispatcher who said, “Look, lady, taxi pickups are based on supply and demand and it doesn’t really matter the reason you need a taxi.”
A taxi driver called me at 5:15 to say he had arrived (an hour too late and even though I had cancelled the call).
At 4 I had also called three other taxi companies and was told by all of them that wait times were a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes.
My frustration level with taxi service for residents reached a boiling point. During tourist season, residents who rely on taxis can’t find one for love or money and it is not a matter of inconvenience: it can be one of cost to livelihood and lives (even if that happens to be a beloved pet).
I’d had my sick cat in a carrier for an hour, waiting at curbside for a taxi that didn’t come. I was absolutely frantic.
What if I’d been sick instead of my cat? What if I was in labour, or was sick, but not sick enough to call an ambulance?
I have chosen to not have a car in order to be able to afford to live downtown to be closer to my clients and because I believe in doing my part to reduce carbon emissions. Most of the time I rely on transit but in urgent situations I take cabs. But the taxi companies have failed me over and over.
I have stood waiting for a cab time and time again, for up to an hour, with groceries beside me at the edge of the curb. I have been late for appointments because, despite putting in my request up to an hour in advance, it didn’t show up.
There has to be something in place to meet local residents’ transportation needs. If Uber is not brought in to manage this desperate shortage of taxis, then a certain number of cabs should be designated for resident use—and there needs to be an “Urgent” and “Emergent” notification.
Vancouver residents take a back seat to tourists and that is not fair or right when we are the ones keeping taxis in business eight months a year.
I will be contacting Uber tomorrow to find out how to lobby for their cause.
> Connie Jorsvik / Vancouver