News / Calgary

City of Calgary aims to put brakes on curbside limo pickups

Late-night partiers willing to fork out extra dough for a luxury-sedan ride home will soon have to pre-book their trip a minimum half-hour in advance if city officials have it their way.

The "30-minute definition" aims to both keep drivers of the lower-cost taxi drivers flush with business and also increase customer safety, according to livery officials, but the proposal is fuelling sharp criticism from the general manager of the city's largest limousine sedan fleet.

"It's ridiculous, it's actually kind of comical," said Allied Limousine's Cam Naghshineh of the proposal, which will go before a city committee later this month. "Get a grip, let's think of the customers and providing customer service instead of trying to create that perfect utopia for taxi drivers."

Already, luxury drivers are required to charge customers for a minimum one-hour's service ($78.30). Technically, the city's livery bylaw also states that sedan operators aren't supposed to pick up customers flagging trips from the curb side, but it's not uncommon to spot luxury drivers circling popular nightclubs in search of potential customers come closing time.

Marcia Andreychuk, a business analyst in the city's livery department, said specifying that all trips must be booked 30 minutes in advance will provide firm guidelines for luxury drivers and lead to better enforcement against violators.

She said a primary concern is customer safety, noting that last Halloween her department uncovered photos of patrons hopping into a class of limousine that the city doesn't even licence. Without the 30-minute rule, Andreychuk said, "It would make it much easier for an unlicensed black car to stand — and basically poach — trips and that's the safety concern."

But Naghshineh said he's seen no evidence of customer safety being put in jeopardy and said he believes his pitch last year to allow luxury cars to operate in the same manner as taxis during peak-service hours scared planners.

"I think they find it to be a real threat . . . some politician, basically the mayor, should step in and take a look at this," he said.

But Marc Halat, the city's chief livery officer, said his team stands behind his decision to keep the customer pools for limos and cabs separate. He said his inspectors have caught 27 luxury drivers breaking the rules since the start of 2013.

"You roll the dice," he warned drivers not playing by the rules.

A city committee with review the "30-minute definition" at a meeting scheduled for April 30.

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