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Taxicabs Parked After Safety Shield Dispute

January 24, 2011 8:20 PM | News

Unicity Taxi will pull its cabs from Winnipeg streets at midnight. (HANDOUT)

If you rely on taxicabs to get around, you might need to find another mode of transportation soon.

Unicity Taxi and Duffy’s Taxi will pull its cabs from Winnipeg streets at midnight after a deadline to install safety shields won’t be met.

The Manitoba Taxicab Board implemented a deadline of 12 a.m. on Tuesday for full shields to be installed in all cabs. The manufacturer of the shields is handling a backlog of installations, but cab companies were told as long as they have an appointment for installation, their cabs could remain on the road. However, the Board now says that’s not the case and all shields must now be installed.

Both taxicab companies have had mixed reactions to the shields, raising concerns like they impede a driver’s visibility and trap the driver in the event of an accident.

Any taxi seen operating without the new shields can be ticketed and towed if caught.

A dispatcher at Spring Taxi, one of the city’s smaller taxi companies, says its cabs are compliant and operating as normal.

Passengers relying on cabs to get to and from the James Richardson International Airport won’t be completely out of luck. Winnipeg Airports Authority spokesperson Christine Alongi tells ChrisD.ca the airport has been working with limo drivers and shuttle providers to ensure it’s business as usual.

The airport is also going to allow other cab companies to begin serving passengers, outside of its exclusive contract with Unicity.

“We’re going to open up the airport to an open cab system, so any cab driver that has met the regulatory requirements of the shield and strobe light can certainly operate out of the airport in the next little while,” Alongi said.

The airport will also have additional personnel curbside to accommodate passengers in finding shared rides.

Unicity currently operates 235 cabs in the city, while Duffy’s has 190. A spokesperson for Unicity couldn’t be reached for comment Monday night.

UPDATE: 10:14 p.m. — Both companies have decided to keep their cabs on the road despite the deadline. A Unicity rep says Transportation Minister Steve Ashton intervened late Monday, but couldn’t provide specific details. We’ll have more on this story Tuesday as information becomes available.

UPDATE: Tuesday, January 25 — The province and the city’s taxicab companies have come to an agreement that will see vehicles in their fleet remain on the road. The safety shields are still required in all cabs, but they will not be pulled off the road while waiting to have them installed.