Josie Desmarais

You have probably noticed them on the streets of Montreal. The 4,500 taxis now have a new look. Wednesday, many cabs were at the airport to launch the new branding, consisting of white chassis with bright colored roofs and a « Bonjour » logo on the sides, adopted in spring by the municipal administration.

Emulating other metropolitan cities, the standardized look offers a unique, Montreal-only style. With competition from ride sharing services like Uber and years of complaints, the new branding is another in the long line of efforts to improve the perceived reputation of the business.

In the last few years, taxi drivers have had a dress code imposed, customer service standards raised and more scrutiny about their behavior. Aref Salem, chair of Montreal Taxi Bureau, believes they were necessary measures.

« Taxi drivers serve as ambassadors to tourists and the makeover lends itself to the image the city wants to portray, » says Salem, who is also the city’s executive committee member responsible for transportation.

The drivers understand what the new look is trying to accomplish, but are upset at how every new measure is another pothole to navigate.

 « It’s a weight on our shoulders »

There are many costs involved as drivers must have a brand new vehicle with the $1500 paint job, and the city has no plans to subsidize either.

Driver Antoine Aboujaoude likes the branding idea, but is upset that there is no help from the city with costs. « Always more money and work for us. A new car, the paint job. It means at least $40,000 and we have our taxi permit to pay for as well, » he said.

During the event, many drivers took the opportunity to voice their displeasure that Uber was still allowed to work at the airport. Seeing that there were many city and Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) executives present, their complaints did not fall on deaf ears.

« We are a service provider and must cater to our clients, » stated ADM’s Director of communications and social responsibility Anne Marcotte.  « Some visitors are used to the Uber service. But at the airport we offer taxis a privileged access on the arrivals floor. Uber can only use the departure level. »

Her words did little to alleviate the drivers’ worries. They want the administration to push for a Uber ban at the airport, citing safety issues as well as the unfair advantages it has by avoiding to heed the rigorous rules they face.

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