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VANCOUVER, B.C. – Taxi and limousine fares across British Columbia will jump 3.5% starting next month to help struggling operators manage the rising cost of fuel. The Passenger Transportation Board announced a temporary 3.5% fuel surcharge, which will take effect July 12 and remain in place until either gas prices decline or the board approves another general rate increase.
The surcharge – triggered when prices rose above $1.35 per litre and stayed there – will mean a taxi ride between downtown Vancouver and the airport will cost about one additional dollar. Mohan Kang, president of the B.C. Taxi Association, said the ride to YVR now costs $26 to $30, depending on traffic.
Taxis in the Lower Mainland charge $2.75 upon pickup, $1.60 per kilometer and about 47 cents for each minute the car is not moving, the Passenger Transportation Board said. The last time the board applied a temporary fuel surcharge was a rise of 4.5% in 2005.
Kang said the new fuel surcharge is relief for drivers across B.C. who have been struggling with rising costs. "I think it was high time," he said.
"Certainly it [the cost of fuel] has hurt everybody. It doesn't matter whether it's the Lower Mainland or a small place up in the north or the Interior."
Kang said some companies pay gas bills for drivers, but in the Lower Mainland the majority of drivers are responsible for their own fuel costs. The announcement comes just weeks before the implementation of the Liberal government's carbon tax, which will increase the price of gas by another 2.4 cents per liter starting July 1.
The government has said the climate-action measure is revenue-neutral, meaning all money collected will be returned through tax reductions.
On Wednesday, NDP leader Carole James said the pressures already being felt from rising gas prices show it is the wrong time for such a tax. "On July 1, the premier is going to add to the pain everybody is feeling already," James said.
She said the tax is going to affect seniors, the working poor and middle-income families "who are already seeing the incentives to change their behaviors."
Jan Broocke, director of the Passenger Transportation Board, said the surcharge will be programmed directly into taxi meters and added onto the hourly or trip rate for limousines. She said fares on shuttle buses regulated by the board will increase by the same 3.5%.
Broocke said the board cannot directly control where the new money goes, but it "expects it will go to whomever pays the gas in the car."
The increase comes as other organizations are facing similar questions about how to deal with the cost of fuel.
The B.C. RCMP's corporate management branch is reviewing what the rising fuel costs will mean for the overall budget. "It's an obvious concern," said Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre of the RCMP E division. "We have over 3,000 motor vehicles in this province. We have 11 aircraft, six which are helicopters. We have 108 boats. In our line of work it's 24/7, 365 so we consume a fair amount of fuel."
At the provincial government, ministries have been told they have to meet their operating budgets for the current year, whether that means finding ways to cut back on driving or by finding savings in other places.
BC Ferries representative Deborah Marshall said her organization expects a new surcharge to be added in the fall. She said a previous fuel surcharge has been made permanent.
The B.C. Ambulance Service did not comment.
Source: Vancouver Sun
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