Having a taxi or similar service in Sylvan Lake is more than a matter of convenience for residents and visitors, it’s also a matter of safety. And it’s something the town is eager to bring back.
This past April, the only taxi service in Sylvan Lake shut down — Aura Taxi, which provided subsidized services for Sylvan Lake Family and Community Support Services.
During the July 25 Sylvan Lake town council meeting, councillors gave first reading to the vehicle for hire business bylaw, which would cover taxis, transportation network companies (such as ride sharing and Uber), shuttles and limousines.
“We’re looking to deregulate,” said Sylvan Lake Mayor Megan Hanson. “Under the current bylaw, there’s quite a few restrictions and red tape to put in an application. But you already have to do that through the provincial government and your insurance, so it doesn’t make sense for us to repeat that process.”
Hanson said a taxi service is a huge need in Sylvan Lake. People who don’t drive need a taxi service to get to and from medical appointments, for example, and visitors can take a taxi to Sylvan Lake, but they have no way to get home.
“People are down here having fun and doing the responsible thing by not drinking and driving. But that’s what terrifies me, because people don’t make good choices when there aren’t any other options,” Hanson said.
Although she explained it’s been more of an issue in the last year, Hanson said she has lived in Sylvan Lake for 14 years, and she doesn’t believe there has ever been a point where it hasn’t been a challenge to find a ride on a Friday night.
Operators looking to start this type of business would need a business licence from the town.
Prior to the first reading, council circulated the bylaw and received feedback from the planning and development department that they have concerns with deregulating taxis and similar transportation services in town.
Transportation network companies are regulated by the province and are issued a certificate of approval by the province once the company has met certain requirements: a class 1, 2 or 4 driver’s license, a vulnerable sector check and proof of insurance coverage. In addition, transportation network companies are required to have a commercial vehicle registration, which means the vehicles need to be inspected and meet certain safety requirements. However, taxis and independent drivers wouldn’t require this under the town’s new bylaw and the planning and development department had concerns regarding the safety of Sylvan Lake residents and visitors.
However, town administration had also requested information from Brownlee LLP regarding deregulating these services, and Browlee LLP stated that the municipality is under no obligation under the Municipal Government Act to regulate taxis or the vehicle for hire industry.
Once third reading has been completed, the town plans to notify residents and local businesses, as well as area taxi, limousine and transportation network companies.