Chief Jonathan Kruger hoped a situation with Penticton’s three taxi companies had been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
But a meeting last week with representatives of the Penticton Indian Band and Coyote Cruises failed to resolve the concerns of the city’s cab industry, according to Amarbir S. Kahlon, the president of Courtesy Cabs.
Kahlon, along with the operators of Klassic and Peach City Cabs sent a joint letter to Penticton city council on July 10, protesting the actions of the Penticton Indian Band’s Coyote Cruises, which they say is costing their drivers business.
Coyote Cruises has operated a tube rental and bus services on the Okanagan River Channel for more than two decades, picking people up at the end of the run and bringing them back to the start.
“They used to come to the midpoint to pick up passengers and cab drivers were picking up from the south end,” said Kahlon. Cab drivers got their share, he continued, so there wasn’t an issue.
“They started coming to the end point and picking up everyone, leaving nothing for the cab drivers.”
“That’s business,” said Kruger, pointing out that the cabs are doing business on PIB land, essentially private property.
The PIB, he continued, is willing to work with the cab companies, even offering to set aside parking spots for the cabs, but aren’t going to stop offering their service to all the channel users.
“We pick up the people that rent our tubes, but we will also pick up anybody else at a really good rate to drive them back to the top,” said Kruger.
“People have a choice of waiting for the bus and paying $5 for the return trip, or taking a cab right away at a cost of about $20.
“It’s up to the people on the channel to make that call. But we’re certainly not going to change our business, we’ve been doing this for years,” said Kruger.
Coyote Cruises charges for the bus ride at the top of the channel.
In their letter, the cab companies said the upfront charge takes choice away from the channel users and Penticton’s tourist image is suffering as a result, with people waiting for up to 45 minutes for the bus on busy days.
“They already paid for the ride, so they can’t take a cab, because that would be a double charge for them,” said Kahlon.
He would rather see Coyote Cruises charge riders when they pick them up, the same as cab drivers do.
Resentment from the city’s 100 cab drivers has built to such a point, Kahlon said, that someone reported Coyote Cruises for charging for a passenger service without a licence from the Passenger Transportation Board.
But that may have made matters worse.
While waiting for the PTB to issue a licence, Kruger said they have been giving people free rides.
Each busload of people, Kahlon estimates, represents about $800 of lost business for the cab drivers.
“When three buses are running constantly, you can imagine how much business the cab drivers are losing,” said Kahlon.
“Right now, no one is making money.
“Bus drivers are hauling people for free while waiting for the licence.”
Both sides say they want to work together and avoid an escalation of the situation.
“We don’t have a problem with the taxicabs down there,” said Kruger
They just can’t park in the middle of our bus lanes and think they own the place.
“They have to have respect, knowing it is our property down there.”
Kahlon said no further meetings with the band are scheduled, and the cab companies may try appealing to MLA Dan Ashton and the B.C. Taxi Association for help after Penticton city council said they had no jurisdiction to intervene.