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Taxi policy discouraging hailing of cabs frustrates Sudbury woman

A Sudbury woman who recently tried to hail a taxi in downtown Sudbury and couldn’t says she is frustrated.

Recently, Pam McKenzie had finished an appointment and picked up a few groceries. She has mobility challenges and uses a cane.

In the past, she says she’s been able to get into a taxi off the street. But last month during a winter storm, she tried to get in to several cabs but was told she had to phone in the request first.

McKenzie doesn’t have a cell phone and didn’t have change to use a pay phone. She asked the driver if he could make the call for her.

“He just mumbled and closed his window,” she said.

Finally, a man asked if she was okay and eventually gave her a taxi he had called earlier.

McKenzie says she was told by Lockerby Taxi she had to call for service instead of being able to flag down a cab off the street.

“I’m kind of mad,” she said. “I froze out there. I was out there over an hour.”

Her daughter, Shannon Marko, says she understands the policy to protect drivers. But she says it’s frustrating none of them would make a call on behalf of her mother.

Right to refuse

According to the city’s taxi bylaws, each cab company has their own policy on whether to accept fares from customers who flag or hail the taxi.

Sharon Flinn, the owner of Lockerby Taxi, says they have the right to refuse fares.

“Especially at night, we don’t encourage our drivers to take flagged fares because we don’t have any information on that person,” she said.

Sharon Flinn is one of the owners of Lockerby Taxi in Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC)

“If people try to flag a taxi down and the taxi doesn’t stop, it means the taxi is probably already engaged in another trip.”

Flinn says the company prefers the person who needs the cab calls it, so the driver has information on the person they are picking up.

As for McKenzie, she says she’ll either have to start carrying change for a pay phone or walk home if she finds herself in a situation like this again in the future.

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