Montreal Unveils Plan To Improve Taxi Industry Amid Uber Competition

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MONTREAL — A blueprint aimed at making Montreal cabs safer for drivers and passengers includes provisions for electronic payments in all taxis, the installation of cameras and a "signature or distinctive image" for all vehicles.

"The whole taxi industry is now ready to turn the corner," Mayor Denis Coderre told a news conference Thursday as he released details of the plan.

Tenders for the cameras will be launched this fall and the mayor expects installations to be completed by the end of 2016.

The plan also calls for all taxis to be equipped with GPS and panic buttons.

Coderre said work will begin in the fall on the city's new taxi image and it will be ready as of next year.

Asked at a news conference if he had any colour preferences, the mayor jokingly responded: red, white and blue, a reference to the jerseys of hockey's Canadiens, football's Alouettes and the former Montreal Expos baseball team.

The plan includes a dress code but it hasn't been decided yet whether that also means cabbies will have to wear uniforms.

It also calls for more ecological or "green'' taxis - hybrid and electric vehicles - by 2017.

There was no mention of fares being reduced.

Coderre said the modernization of the industry will be finished for the city's 375th anniversary, in 2017.

"We want the metropolis to shine," he added. "My objective is to make the taxi industry a model of performance and efficiency."

The proposals were generally welcomed by industry representatives at the news conference, although George Boussios, the president of Champlain Taxi, wasn't too happy he may have to repaint his cab.

"This is not New York, this is my (private) car,'' he said. "If I've got to go to a wedding - I have my family and my kids - do I really want to pull up in a pink car or drop off my kids in a yellow cab?," he said.

Several others present were concerned with the Uber ride service.

Coderre reiterated he believes the service is illegal and that Uber drivers don't follow rules such as having taxi permits and liability coverage.

He added that his role is to protect drivers who have families and "have to put butter on the table."

But Charles Artin, the general manager of a cab company that serves Montreal's West Island, complained Uber has been around for about two years and that nothing has been done.

"It's really chaos which we have to stop right now because, if we don't, we're going to have a problem,'" he told reporters.

Artin added that calls to his service have gone down by "30 to 35 per cent'' since Uber arrived on the scene.

Uber spokesman Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said the company welcomes any innovation that improves the quality of transportation options in the city.

"As recently stated by a Canadian court, Uber is a new business model, distinct from traditional taxi services," he said in a statement.

"We offer a convenient and efficient technology platform that connects users to safe, reliable and affordable rides."

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