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New taxi bylaw driving change in Innisfail

A Red Deer cab company is among the first to pick up an Innisfail taxi licence.

Associated Cab is preparing to commence service in Innisfail, with plans to operate two cars, a van and a handi-van in the town.

“We’re aiming for Sept. 1,” said Daryl Frenette, owner of Associated Cab.

Two weeks ago, Innisfail town council adopted a taxi bylaw for the community. It allows one taxi for every 1,000 residents — or eight vehicles given Innisfail’s current population.

Helen Dietz, the town’s chief administrative officer, said previously taxi companies only required a business licence to operate.

“There were no restrictions or rules around taxi service,” she said.

“Now, this is just more specific to the taxis and the taxi service.”

Applicants under the new taxi bylaw must obtain a brokerage licence or apply as an owner-operator.

They are also required to prove that their cars and drivers are fit.

“It’s a well-built bylaw,” said Frenette, who thinks the rules will help ensure that those offering taxi service in Innisfail are qualified and safe to do so.

“I see lots of positives coming from it.”

Ray Plato takes the opposite view. The owner of Innisfail Taxi Ltd., which has two vehicles and operates from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays, is upset with the new bylaw.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Plato.

He argues that the old system, which allowed for a flat-rate fee rather than metered service, worked well. Plato said Innisfail Taxi will cease operations when its current business licence expires in January.

Dietz said the taxi bylaw was motivated by a desire to ensure the industry is properly regulated.

“Over the last year or so, I’ve had a lot of people inquiring about a taxi service and running the service,” she said.

Frenette acknowledged that it will be tough to establish a new taxi company in Innisfail.

“I think it’s going to be a struggle at first, like any new market is.”

But he’s optimistic town residents will become accustomed to his new service and support it. Associated Cab was already receiving a lot of calls from Innisfail, especially for handi-van transport, he said.

“We go there to pick up lots of trips.”

Associated Cab’s Innisfail taxis will be distinct from its Red Deer vehicles, even sporting a different colour — silver.

However, they will be dispatched using the same computerized system.

Frenette said Associated Cab’s expansion plans are limited to Innisfail, where he believes a business opportunity exists.

“We’ve got no designs to go anywhere else.”

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