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A taxi graveyard at Vancouver International Airport’s commercial vehicle holding area

Flagging demand drives YVR cabbies to despair

When Anoop Singh, 36, entered the taxi business seven years ago, he was making 15 trips to and from Vancouver’s…

By Niamh Scallan , in City Feature story Olympics , on December 2, 2009 Tags: , , , ,

A taxi graveyard at Vancouver International Airport's commercial vehicle holding area
A taxi graveyard at Vancouver International Airport's commercial vehicle holding area

When Anoop Singh, 36, entered the taxi business seven years ago, he was making 15 trips to and from Vancouver’s YVR airport per day. Now, he works double shifts and is lucky to make eight.

“This was a sanctuary at one time,” said Singh. “You could make some decent cash and look after your rent and mortgages, but not anymore.

“Now, you’re barely keeping up with the expenses.”

Business is lagging for Vancouver Airport taxi drivers. The economic downturn and opening of the Canada Line have reduced demand for taxi services and many drivers are struggling to make a living.

Yet, YVR taxi regulations have not changed to reflect such challenges and the Airport Authority has done little to remedy the situation.

Sat Gill, YVR’s manager of ground transportation, said the airport taxi business has slowed in recent months. Wait times have increased for airport taxi drivers, but there are no current plans to change license regulations.

“We are currently going into our second year of a four-year agreement with taxi companies so we try not to, under any circumstances, increase or decrease the number of taxis during a contract term,” Gill said.

Rigid regulations

Singh: "This used to be a sanctuary at one time."
Singh: This used to be a sanctuary at one time

YVR drivers buy taxi licenses for $396 a month and have to complete a minimum of 45 trips to and from the airport each month.

“The airport license regulation doesn’t reflect the current economic situation,” said Anoop Singh, who has driven for five years with Surdell-Kennedy Taxis Ltd.

“When you can’t promise us business, why do you want me to sit here and not make money?”

Listen to taxi driver Anoop Singh’s concerns about the business:


Darjit Singh, who has driven for Bonny’s Taxis for 12 years, said the problems faced by the taxi business are worsened by current regulations.

“Right now, there are too many cabs at the airport,” he said. “For the past few months, we have been waiting over two hours for each fare. The economy has brought down business and there are very few passengers to pick up these days.”

Aviation activity at the airport decreased by 10.9 per cent between 2008 and 2009, according to a Vancouver Airport Authority report.

The new Canada Line further impacted the taxi business, offering travellers a less expensive trip from the airport to downtown. TransLink reported an average daily ridership of 83, 027 between Sept. 9 and Oct. 6. This number is expected to rise to 100,000 by January 2010.

“I’d say there’s been about a 40 percent decrease in business in the past few months,” said Charanjit Dhillon, who drives for Sunshine Cabs. “I blame a lot of it on the Canada Line.”

Olympic hopes

Some airport taxi drivers view the 2010 Winter Games as the last hope for the industry.

“I’m waiting for the Olympics to make money and then maybe I’ll find other job,” said Darjit Singh. “A cleaning job would be better than this. At least I’d be making minimum wage.”

YVR’s Sat Gill warned that the Olympics would have little impact on airport taxis.

“For us here, VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) is responsible for a vast majority of the transportation for the media, the athletes, and the families,” he said. “All those people will use the VANOC system so the actual increase in passenger loads for taxis is not significant.”

The Lower Mainland Taxi Association formed recently to address challenges faced by taxi drivers. The group is designed to represent and promote the interests of Lower Mainland drivers in the Vancouver area.

Gill, whose job involves the organization and management of YVR’s ground transportation, said the establishment of the group is long overdue.

“If they came up with a good plan, we would be happy to consider it,” he said. “All I want at the end of the day is service for the customer. If they find a better, more efficient way to do it, well then, fantastic.”

YVR taxi drivers remain concerned that their voices are not being heard.

“There are people who need this career to support their mortgages and their kids but we’re making no money and nobody’s listening,” said Anoop Singh.

“We pay to be represented at the Taxi Association but no complaints are ever taken. Everyone is working hard here, but we’re making less than minimum wage.”


  • This is a great example of how a single policy decision has far reaching consequences in personal lives. Because of the Canada Line, countless small business owners suffered during construction. Taxi drivers at YVR are no exception. Since the Canada Line removed the need for the 98 B-Line, shops and restaurants in the Marpole area (70th/Granville) are getting hit hard.

    Hopefully an outside entity can intervene to put pressure on the contract terms between taxi drivers and the airport. YVR is definitely exploiting the situation unnecessarily. Thanks for making sure this didn’t fall through the cracks.

  • With two more years before the next contract negotiations, cabbies’ attrition rates might equalize the rider-to-ride disparity.

    Why didn’t YVR meet with the cab companies in the five years before the Canada Line opened?

  • Grant, thanks for your comment. YVR did meet with cab companies prior to the opening of the Canada Line, when the contract was signed two years ago. YVR authorities did not see the Canada Line as a long-term threat to the taxi business. They argued that once the initial hype over the transit line was over, travellers would use taxis again.

    The challenges currently faced by cab drivers demonstrate a serious problem that is made worse by the existing regulations. It seems that YVR drivers are being let down by both their companies and the airport. The airport is unwilling to address the issue until the contract is over. Also, companies do not want to see a decrease in the number of airport licenses they are issued because this would result in lower profits.

  • 1. Grant Burns says: two more years before the next contract negotiations ,he is wrong because Mr Sat Gill of YVR Ground transportation asked taxi companies to negotiate for next contract in the month of Oct. Previous contract was revoked/ cancelled one year before expiry, he wants to do same with the present contract it. He tells everything what he wants to do BUT taxi companies’ Directors rather DICTATORS’ don’t tell drivers and their share holders what they discussed in the meeting.
    2. Before giving contract to Highend limo/Aerocar he offered it to taxi companies and they didn’t respond or told to shareholders about the offer.
    3. Now YVR wants certain taxis after 10pm, no more 45 trips or time slot and given 14 Jan dead line to respond to this but LMTA i.e. Taxi companies are not holding any meetings or discussing this with drivers or share holders.
    4. YVR isn’t wrong it’s the GREED of Multi taxi owners!

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