Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR), in Miami, on November 3, 1998. This text updates the one presented at the First IATR European Conference held in Strasbourg, October 1996. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


THE TAXI AS TRANSIT MODE,
THE CITY OF RIMOUSKI DEMONSTRATION WITH THE TAXIBUS 1

Michel TRUDEL
Departmental Co-ordinator for Taxi Regulation,
Ministère des Transports du Québec
35, Port-Royal East, 4th Floor
Montréal, Québec H3L 3T1
Tel.: (514) 864- 637, Fax: (514) 873-0435,
(E-mail: mtrudel@mtq.gouv.qc.ca).

SUMMARY

Using taxis to provide a public transportation service could very well be a cost effective solution that would enable these bodies to meet more efficiently the needs of ever demanding customers. In Québec, several public transportation taxi services have already been set up as a complement to traditional bus services. As for Rimouski, the city authorities decided in September 1993 to implement an on demandresponsive public transportation service that relies solely on local taxicabs. The successful Rimouski TAXIBUS experience is now to be considered as a viable alternative to traditional transit transportation systems using buses, and indicates that there are some other worthwhile ways of using this transportation resource, taxis.

Taxibus Logo

(A public transit service... just call!)

1.0 THE ROLES OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BY TAXI

In the past, public transportation taxi services were often not given proper consideration because vehicles were said to be too small to meet the demand. However, the vehicle's availability, its high degree of flexibility and its possible substantial savings compensate this taxi transportation constraint.

Within the context of regular public transit services, taxicabs might prove useful in various roles (1), (2) 2 :

¨ Carrying people to a transfer location such as a bus terminal or a railway station, i.e. the "Treintaxi" in the Netherlands (3);

¨ Replacing buses between rush hours;

¨ Extending the service schedule of regular public transit;

¨ Providing service to isolated or scarcely populated areas;

¨ Providing total service within a municipality, as is the case for Rimouski's TAXIBUS.

In addition to these roles, i.e. acting as a complement or a substitute for regular public transit services, the following two can be added:

¨ Acting as a complementary service for transportation of handicapped persons;

¨ Transporting groups previously assembled by a third party.

In France co-operation between collective transportation and taxis resulted in formal agreements, which are worth mentioning. Since 1993, the Public Transportation Union (Union des Transports Publics -UTP) and the National Federation of Independent Taxi Owners /Drivers (Fédération Nationale des Artisans du Taxi - FNAT) have signed a partnership agreement (4) in order to put into practice this co-operation. In 1996, the UTP proposed to public transit enterprises that they sign an Intermodal Charter (Charte de l'intermodalité) (5). Finally, in 1997, the partnership agreement UTP - FNAT was renewed with the addition of a third partner, the Groupement des Autorités Organisatrices de Transport -GART. In 1998, as a first step of this new co-operation agreement, the UTP, FNAT and GART published jointly A Practical Guide (6) aimed at making known the experience of the co-operation between taxi and public transit and offering this expertise to local communities, transport enterprises and taxis.

It might be useful to explain briefly the legal framework for supplying public transportation by taxi in Quebec before detailing the operation and the results achieved by Rimouski's TAXIBUS.

2.0 LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

According to the Act Respecting Transportation by Taxi, there are two methods of implementing public transportation by taxi: a service that is set up by virtue of a contract with a mass transit public body, a municipality or an amalgamation of municipalities and a service that is authorised by virtue of regulations enacted by the government or a regional authority (section 9).

  1. A contractual agreement between the organising public authority and the taxi-permit holder(s) is the most common and formal process. Generally speaking, there are contractual provisions about the obligations dealing with the service supplied (schedules, routes, fee structure, payment terms, etc.) and the authorities are bound to supervise and insure quality service. They also have to deal with any possible budgetary deficit. Such contracts had to be signed in order for taxis to offer a public transportation service especially in Québec City, Longueuil, Laval, Sherbrooke and Rimouski.

  2. The second option is less restricting as it allows taxi operators to offer a public transportation service within the parameters provided by the regulations. Usually, this service requires no subsidies. The Transportation by Taxi Regulation foresee that such public transportation services be set up to certain airports (sections 68 to 71 and Annex B of the Regulation). For example, at the Mont-Joli Airport, there is a flat rate per automobile that can be shared according to the number of passengers; at the Rouyn-Noranda Airport, the flat rate applies to passengers.

  3. Besides the first two possibilities, there is a third option available: group transportation. Indeed, the taxi industry can offer transportation services to some groups of customers. In this regard, one could foresee taxicab-pooling agreements that would allow groups of users to hire cabs.

The Ligue de taxis de Québec has already had the experience of a Taxicab Pooling Club. However it is the communities in rural areas that develop the concept of taxicab pooling . The Service d'Entraide de Bellechasse has set up with the local taxis the Bonne Route Club in order to serve the rural population, mainly for trips necessary for medical reasons. When trips are booked for the following day in order to increase the occupation rate they are announced on local community radio. A similar service has been organised in the region of Montmagny and L'Islet. Similarly, some Local Community Health Centers hire taxis on a contractual basis to pick-up and transport their customers. It becomes also possible to imagine similar services being implemented by employers or businesses for use by their employees or customers. Many other examples could be figured out.

Section 42 of the Act Respecting Transportation by Taxi allows for contractual arrangements including fares that would differ from those prescribed by the Commission des transports du Québec provided that a copy of the contract is inside the vehicle at the time the transportation occurs. As for Section 50 of the Transportation by Taxi Regulation, it details the content of mandatory contractual terms: identification of the parties, means of identification of the persons or groups to be transported, the date and duration of the contract, the set price and some information about the points of origin and destination of the ride. Most of these details are commonly found on an order form or on a detailed receipt completed beforehand.

3.0 RIMOUSKI'S TAXIBUS: OPERATION

In September 1993, the City of Rimouski implemented an imaginative concept in public transit service: TAXIBUS. This public transportation service is offered on an on demand-responsive basis and relies solely on local taxicabs.

Rimouski has a population of 32,000 inhabitants which are spread out on a territory that extends over 76 sq. km. Located on the south shore of the Saint-Lawrence River, 312 kilometres from Québec City and 570 kilometres from Montréal, Rimouski is a regional growth center in terms of commercial activities as well as government, educational and professional services. Still, despite these major urban functions, the City of Rimouski could not longer provide its population with a public transit service, once the private carrier went out of business.

The city authorities had studied various public transit service scenarios using buses but they all appeared too expensive. The financial assessments of these tentative bus services showed that the city would have to support operating deficits varying between $334,000 and $540,000. The TAXIBUS service was chosen for economic reasons, as well as for the quality of the service provided to the population (no transfers, seating accommodation, etc.).

3.1- Service availability. The service is available Monday to Friday (7). TAXIBUS allows its users to get anywhere within the city limits. Transportation of people takes place according to a predetermined schedule (see the table); it involves no transfers and is set from one stop point to another. This schedule facilitates concentration of demands on common time periods thus increasing the occupancy rate of the vehicles. Obviously, if at any given hour no transportation is required, no service will be provided and no costs will be incurred. Consequently, the vehicles' routes will vary at each departing point according to the needs of the various users.

TAXIBUS SERVICE SCHEDULE (since September 1, 1998)

DAY SERVICE: FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY
Half-hour service 7:00 am 7:30 am 8:00 am 8:30 am
Hourly service 9:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:40 am
Half-hour service 12:10 [noon] 12:40 pm 1:00 pm 1:30 pm
Hourly service 2:00 pm 3:00 pm
Half-hour service 4:00 pm 4:40 pm 5:10 pm 5:40 pm
Hourly service 6:00 pm 7:00 pm

EVENING SERVICE: FROM MONDAY TO FRIDAY
Half-hour service 7:30 pm 8:00 pm 8:30 pm
Hourly service 9:10 pm

3.2- Rates. Each passenger must pay the taxi driver $2.40 in cash. A $70.55 monthly pass is also available as it allows passengers to use TAXIBUS as often as they wish during the said month. The rate has to be paid, even if the user is not at the bus stop, unless he had already cancelled his reservation.

3.3- Directions to use. Whenever a person wishes to use the TAXIBUS services, he/she must first apply for a user card. Registration to the service is permanent and its $1 fee includes the taking of a picture for the user card. To make a reservation, the user must phone in advance and give the following information: his/her user number printed on his/her user card, the departure time, the stop point numbers corresponding to the origin and destination of the trip. The stop point numbers are shown on the stop point signs and on the network plan, which is given to the user by the city clerk upon completion of the registration procedures. For example, here is how a TAXIBUS user could go about making a reservation: "My user number is 11,520. I want a ride on Friday at 8 a.m. from stop point no. 2609 to stop point no. 3005 and at 5 p.m. I would like to go from stop point no. 3004 to stop point no. 2608". One may also make reservations on a regular basis. Telephone reservations is the foundation for every on request transportation system . Its importance is underlined in the TAXIBUS logo, which uses a telephone as a vehicle (see the logo on page 1). When the project started, reservations had to be phoned in 24 hours in advance. This delay was considered by many to be too long and users felt that it was a major constraint to the use of the service. By January 31, 1994, this delay was shortened to one hour.

3.4- The partners. The 45 members of the Coopérative Taxi 800 of Rimouski provide transportation. The drivers are paid according to the readings of the taximeter, from the time the first passenger is picked up to the time the last passenger is dropped off, subtracting the amount paid in cash by the passengers. Then, the taxi co-operative sends an invoice to the Rimouski TAXIBUS Corporation, an organisation established by the city to manage this transportation service (see the diagram on the links between partners). Finally, the ministère des Transports du Québec provides this service with a subsidy according to the Government Assistance Program (40% of the revenues not to exceed 75% of the operating deficit).

Links Between Taxibus Partners

3.5- The TRAXIBUS software. The implementation and management of this transportation service (receiving calls, organising the rides, dispatching taxicabs, controlling services provided by the drivers, collecting the fees, invoicing rides to TAXIBUS, managing the subsidy, etc.) were greatly facilitated by the fact that the taxis in Rimouski had already been participating for a few years in a similar project, which dealt with the transportation of people with disabilities, and the said project was taken care of by the city according to similar rules. Additionally, the overall management of this on demand-responsive transport service is expedited through the use of the TRAXIBUS software, a copy of which was provided to the city by the ministère des Transports, which is derived from the TRAJET software used for managing adapted transportation services in Québec.

4.0 RIMOUSKI'S TAXIBUS: ASSESSMENT AND SERVICE EVALUATION

4.1- The first assessment. As early as January 1994, the TAXIBUS Corporation and the City of Rimouski published a first operational assessment report for the service. As of January 21, 1994, TAXIBUS had ordered 4 065 rides involving 6 723 passengers, for an average of 1.65 passenger per ride. The average ride cost was $8.56, i.e. $5.18 per passenger (8). The operating statement made it possible for the reservation delay to be reduced to an advance notice of one hour. Following the announcement of this assessment, Mr. Pierre Pelletier, Mayor of the City, said:

"TAXIBUS must remain financially acceptable to our community. Our municipality cannot afford the offsetting of yearly deficits around $400 000. [...] to provide a conventional public transit service by bus 7 days a week.» [...]

TAXIBUS proved to be an efficient and courteous service that meets all expectations. Taxi drivers' behaviour towards customers reflects tact and consideration.» [...]

TAXIBUS, available on a 1 hour advance notice, becomes a public transit service that can stand up to any possible comparison with conventional bus transportation service." (9)

4.2- The evaluation report. The agreement reached between the City of Rimouski and the ministère des Transports made provision for an evaluation report to be prepared by an Evaluation Committee. This report (10) published in 1995 showed that:

¨ From September 1993 to August 1994, 2 252 people applied for a user card of whom 1 051 had called upon TAXIBUS for a ride at least once.

¨ Between February and May 1994, the average weekly number of rides performed by TAXIBUS totalled 383 involving in average 811 passengers for a matching rate of 2.12 passengers per ride; the total transportation cost figures amounted to $9.22 per ride or $4.35 per passenger.

¨ A cost comparison with other public transit services located in cities of approximately the same size (Rouyn-Noranda, Drummondville, Granby, Joliette and Saint-Jérôme) showed that costs associated with TAXIBUS were an average of $12 lower per capita as compared to other municipal services.

¨ The total costs during the year 1994 amounted to $269 000. of which $100 000 was devoted to administrative expenses. The ministry contributed a $47 000 subsidy and the municipality's share totalled an amount of $132 000. The municipality's share on a per capita basis amounts to $4.28 as compared to an average of $8.35 for municipalities of approximately the same size that offer public bus transit service.

¨ The results of a survey of users of the service shows that the satisfaction rate is extremely high on various topics: frequency, fee structure, location or stop points, vehicles' cleanliness and comfort, level of courtesy displayed by drivers, etc..

¨ No significant impact was observed upon the total volume of taxi rides with the implementation of TAXIBUS: the number of rides that were given because of TAXIBUS largely compensated the slight decrease that was noted in the volume of regular calls. Additionally, taxi operators observed that this public transportation service gained some new customers who were now aware of the existence of taxis and these people now make direct calls to the taxi co-operative.

¨ The Evaluation Committee then reported that " the service set up by Rimouski is well suited to meet the needs of a community where the demand for public transportation is fairly low".

Consequently, the Committee advised the ministère des Transports that "the TAXIBUS service organised by the City of Rimouski should be recognised as eligible under the Public Transportation Assistance Program on a permanent basis". The Ministère reacted favourably to that request and no longer considers this as an "experiment".

4.3- An assessment after four years operation. The data compiled during the first four complete years of operation show that this transportation service is becoming increasingly popular with the population. As a matter of fact, there was an increase of 37.7% in the number of trips using TAXIBUS and a 31% increase in the number of trips per inhabitant.

This increase in the demand did not give rise to a proportional cost increase. Costs went up by only 6%. The cost increase was kept down by an increase in productivity, i.e. by grouping together more passengers on a single ride. The number of passengers per ride which had totalled 1.6 during the first few months of operation went up to 2.2 in 1994, 2.6 in 1995 and 2.8 for the years 1996 and 1997.

It seems therefore that TAXIBUS is stabilised at about 60 000 trips per year, that is to say a ratio of 2 trips per person. The service cost is kept at $285 000 of which 21% are administrative expenses. However, Rimouski and TAXIBUS Corporation want to maintain an objective of 75 000 trips per year. To reach this goal in 1998 timetable and service have improved in order to satisfy better the demand. Certain destinations like old people's homes they now have the benefit of a door to door service. Finally advertising insists more on the concept of public transit.

RIMOUSKI'S TAXIBUS ASSESSMENT REPORT, YEARS 1994 to 1997

           
  1994 1995 1996 1997 1997/1994

           
Population served 30 900 31 773 31 773 32 397 104.8%
           
Service hours/year 3 432 3 432 3 432 3 432 100.0%
           
Trips / year 42 665 56 122 60 269 58 758 137.7%
Trips / inhabitant 1.38 1.77 1.90 1.81 131.4%
           
Rides / year 19 288 21 403 21 448 21 056 109.2%
Passengers / ride 2.21 2.62 2.81 2.79 126.2%
           
Rates : cash 2.25 $ 2.25 $ 2.25 $ 2.30 $ 102.2%
Monthly pass 66.14 $ 66.14 $ 66.14 $ 67.65 $ 102.3%
           
Total service cost 268 905 $ 293 577 $ 288 589 $ 285 885 $ 106.3%
Administration 100 455 $ 86 405 $ 67 180 $ 60 025 $ 59.8%
Operation 168 450 $ 207 172 $ 221 409 $ 225 860 $ 134.1%
Total cost/inhabitant 8.70 $ 9.24 $ 9.08 $ 8.82 $ 101.4%
Total cost/trip 6.30 $ 5.23 $ 4.79 $ 4.87 $ 77.2%
           
Revenue 89 801 $ 123 966 $ 126 848 $ 124 707 $ 138.9%
           
Revenue/Total cost 33.40% 42.23% 43.95% 43.62% 130.6%
           
Québec subsidy 46 960 $ 62 877 $ 68 108 $ 67 318 $ 143.4%
Subsidy/inhabitant 1.52 $ 1.98 $ 2.14 $ 2.08 $ 136.7%
Subsidy/trip 1.10 $ 1.12 $ 1.13 $ 1.15 $ 104.1%
Subsidy/Total cost 17.46% 21.42% 23.60% 23.55% 134.8%
           
City's Contribution 132 143 $* 106 734 $ 93 634 $ 93 860 $ 71,0%
City's Contrib./inhabitant 4.28 $ 3.36 $ 2.95 $ 2.90 $ 67.7%
City's Contribution/trip 3.10 $ 1.90 $ 1.55 $ 1.60 $ 51.6%
City's Contrib./Total cost 49.14% 36.36% 32.45% 32.83% 66.8%

* This amount includes a surplus of $25 500 from previous year,
which was carried over to 1994 and allotted to an advertising campaign.

5.0 CONCLUSION

Rimouski's TAXIBUS has proven to be a success. It has contributed to a higher degree of interest, if not curiosity, towards the use of taxicabs as a public transportation service scheme. When it comes to providing service to medium-sized cities, this option is now to be considered as a viable alternative to traditional transit transportation systems using buses.

Whether of an economic or functional nature, the advantages that this kind of service has to offer, enable the design of new service concepts, especially in small or medium-sized municipalities where public transit systems are often non-existent. By relying on taxis to provide transportation, the authorities can shape the supply mechanism so that it meets the demand requirements and thus ensure that an optimal... or minimal service is available!

Another interesting aspect for the industry is that TAXIBUS has helped new customers become aware of the existence of conventional taxi service. While these customers previously used to overestimate the cost of a ride, they now directly call the Taxi Company for service.

Rimouski's TAXIBUS successful experiment has won several awards and honours:

¨ Rimouski's TAXIBUS won the AQTR  ENVIRONNEMENT Prize awarded for the first time by the Association québécoise du transport et des routes at its 30th Annual Convention held in Hull on April 7, 1995;

¨ During the preliminary proceedings of the ÉcoSommet, held in Montréal on May 6, 7 and 8, 1996, the TAXIBUS was also selected, in the field of transportation, as the most promising success and the highest benefit project in terms of sustainable development.

Notwithstanding the service's success and the numerous information requests that keep flowing in, we have no choice but to admit that Rimouski's TAXIBUS has given rise to very few similar projects. It is true that the management of an on demand-responsive transportation service, such as TAXIBUS, is much more demanding than simply managing a bus transit system whose vehicles keep on going according to the same schedules and trips, whether customers are waiting or not. An on demand-responsive transportation service requires constant care and thoroughness. If, for example, a passenger has made a reservation according to the rules, one cannot leave him/her behind without putting in jeopardy the whole credibility of the service itself.

These findings can also be given the following interpretation: municipal entities are hesitant to provide themselves with a public transit service, even the cheapest one there is, because they know very well that this is the kind of public service that cannot simply be cancelled once it has been implemented! This is why I urge the taxi operators to make note of the following message:

¨ Take control, grab this market;

¨ Offer a minimal public transit service to your fellow citizens;

¨ Provide service to some major centers within a minimum time frame;

¨ Get this service to pay for itself or, if necessary, offset its deficit;

¨ Make yourselves indispensable and carve out a place for yourself in the community.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

(1) ROY, Erwin and Michel TRUDEL, «Province de Québec: utilisation du taxi à des fins de transport collectif», in Transports urbains, No 72, Paris, July - September 1991, pp. 5-19.

(2) NOTE: To get an overall view of on demandresponsive transportation systems in operation in Europe, one can refer to a study conducted by the International Union of Public Transport (UITP); the two following documents provide an overall picture of it:

PETERSON, Bo E., «Le transport public à la demande», in Transport public international, journal of the UITP, Brussels, January 1995. pp.4245.; «Demandresponsive public transport», idem, pp.610; «Nachfrageorientierter öffentlicher Verkehr», idem, pp.5357.

VIERTH, Inge, «Résultats de l'enquête de l'UITP sur le transport public à la demande», «Findings of the UITP Survey on DemandResponsive Public Transport», «Ergebnisse der UITP-Umfrage über den Nachfrageorientierten öffentlichen Verkehr», Paper presented at the International Union of Public Transport Conference, held in Brugge in August 1995.

(3) Theo VAN SCHAIK, Peter JORRITSMA, Treintaxi, Train-to-door Service, Ride Sharing Experiences, in IATR Orlando Conference Proceedings, Orlando, 1993, 8 pages,.

(4) FNAT-UTP, Convention entre la Fédération Nationale des Artisans Taxis et l'Union des Transports Publics, Paris, June 1993, 3 pages.

(5) UTP, RATP, SNCF, FNTV, La charte de l'intermodalité, Les entreprises de transport public de voyageurs s'engagent, Rouen, November 1996, 7 pages.

(6) MICHAUD, Véronique, Coopération Taxi Transport Public, Mode d'emploi, Guide Pratique 1998, publication conjointe FNAT, GART, UTP, Paris, May 1998, 60 pages.

(7) CITY OF RIMOUSKI, Un service de transport en commun... au bout du fil, Information Booklet, 3 p.

(8) DOUCET, Rénald, TAXIBUS, à l'heure des comptes : un service de transport en commun... au bout du fil, bien présent à Rimouski, Corporation TAXIBUS de Rimouski, Press releases distributed on January 27, 1994.

(9) PELLETIER, Pierre, TAXIBUS, City of Rimouski, Press release distributed on January 27, 1994.

(10) JOINT EVALUATION COMMITTEE MINISTÈRE DES TRANSPORTS DU QUÉBEC - CITY OF RIMOUSKI, Le TAXIBUS de Rimouski, un service municipal de transport en commun par taxi. Report published by the ministère des Transports, Québec City, 1995, 80 pages with annexes.

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C: TAXIBUS.IATR, Miami.ENGL.


1 Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR), in Miami, on November 3, 1998. This text updates the one presented at the First IATR European Conference held in Strasbourg, October 1996. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

2 See the documents quoted in the bibliography.


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