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Taxis face crackdown over rush to pick up cruise-ship fares

Aug 10 2012
Taxis, cars and buses jostle for space along Belleville Street, a busy thoroughfare for tourist traffic. 

Taxis, cars and buses jostle for space along Belleville Street, a busy thoroughfare for tourist traffic.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com (August 2012)

The four cruise ships visiting Victoria on Thursday were good news for businesses, but a headache for James Bay residents, with up to 10,000 visitors heading downtown via taxis and buses.

In response, a new effort to slow down traffic, mainly taxis, travelling to and from the Ogden Point terminal was announced by representatives of Victoria police, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and the City of Victoria.

Taxi operators caught speeding could lose their permits to pick up passengers at Ogden Point.

"The schedules of the ships, which for the most part is three ships arriving at the same time within minutes and leaving at the same time within minutes, has created a real rush event on most of these evenings," said Marg Gardiner, president of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association.

Taxi drivers often speed back to Ogden Point to pick up new fares - there's pressure to move fast when so many passengers have to be moved in a short time frame, Gardiner said.

"James Bay is a residential community and people forget that."

Volunteers are expected to run digital "speed watch" display boards and distribute leaflets to offending motorists.

The number of speeding tickets written by police in the area this year is low, said Mike Tucker, Victoria police spokesman. "As you can imagine, people see [police] and slow down.

When they're there, we get great compliance."

Curtis Grad, president and CEO of the harbour authority, said the focus of the latest initiative is on taxi drivers, but the problem goes beyond that. "Residential vehicles, private vehicles - everybody is probably speeding more than they should be through the neighbourhood."

Victoria police are stretched in resources and James Bay offers plenty of alternative routes for those hoping to avoid a speed trap, Grad said.

Taxi drivers using Ogden Point agree in a contract to abide by local traffic laws.

Commissionaires will report on any taxis speeding past volunteers manning the digital boards, he said.

Offending taxis could have their access to Ogden Point revoked by GVHA for a set period.

"We haven't had to use it very often, but we've had to use it to the extent that now people know we're serious and companies have been respective of that approach," said Grad.

Sarjit Sidhu, a driver with Airwaves Airport Taxi, feels taxi drivers are unfairly targeted.

"During the time I've driven a cab, I've had no accidents and I haven't hit anybody," he said.

Sidhu said he always obeys the speed limit, but others don't. "Eighty per cent or 90 are good but a few are not - they just speed."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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