To regulate or not to regulate?
That is the question Marystown is trying to answer when it comes to taxi companies operating within the town.
“We did have a discussion about it last night,” Marystown Mayor Sam Synard told The Southern Gazette on March 20. “We are going to make a decision about moving forward with the taxi services and licenses sometime this spring. So, before the spring is over we’ll have to get our heads around what we do with the taxi licenses.”
Synard added it’s being debated whether the town should be putting regulations on the local taxi industry.
“The last business in Marystown that the town actually regulates is the taxi business,” he explained. “We don’t regulate convenience stores, retail footprints, we don’t regulate beauty salons, as long as they fit zoning requirements.”
The mayor said council will be reaching out to other municipalities around the province to see what their approaches are with taxi operators.
The Town of Marystown issues 15 licenses and traditionally Marystown Taxi has held five of those licenses. Radio Cabs, which held the remaining 10, closed last year, leaving to question what is to become of the licenses. As reported recently by The Southern Gazette, Radio Cab’s owner has entertained offers to sell the business.
“We don’t have anything in our regulation that say if you don’t use your license, you lose your license,” explained Synard. “Licenses in Marystown were always hard to come by, so, everybody who had a taxi license used it.”
He added the town recognizes the need for taxis.
“A lot of people don’t have private cars, especially tourists that come here or people who come here on business might not have cars, so we do need a dependable taxi service.”
Synard said going forward the town will need to decide what is the best approach to take — if the industry should remain highly regulated by the town, or if the town should treat it the same as other enterprises.
“We regulate it now in a very serious way by capping the number of licenses,” he said.
He added if the town were to provide licenses to anyone looking to operate a taxi and meets the eligibility requirements, what affect would that have on the industry?
“Historically (in) Marystown when the economy in the area can support up to 15 cabs, people could make a living. They’ll be able to offer a dependable service, keep the cars in good condition,” said Synard. “But if you had unlimited taxis ... just to use some ludicrous example (where) we end with 40 taxis in Marystown, how long would any of them survive? Would you wake up some morning and go from 40 taxis to two taxis?”
Synard said in any business there is competition and the key to surviving in a competitive market is to offer a good service. He said one of the issues in Marystown is for operators to ensure there are enough vehicles in service to meet the demand, whereas during the day, five cabs could be sufficient, but that number may not meet the demands during the weekend.
Synard said with tourism season fast approaching, and the possibility of increased activity in the town’s economy with the development of the aquaculture industry, it is important the town have a reliable taxi service.
“People just can’t come to Marystown and all the sudden realize there are no taxis,” he said. “So just trying to find that balance somehow, and what role does the town play in finding that balance.”