As taxi permit value drops, Quebec looking at ways to help drivers
Published Wednesday, December 7, 2016 1:13PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 7, 2016 7:27PM EST
Montreal taxi drivers say the value of their operating permits is rapidly dropping, as the provincial government is about to study what to do about the problem.
The operating permits, also known as taxi medallions, are issued by the municipal taxi bureau to limit the number of taxis on the street at any given time.
Those permits have become a de facto pension plan for many owners, who sell them in order to enter retirement.
But those permits, which were being sold for up to $200,000 a few months ago, have plunged in value since Quebec allowed Uber to operate a pilot project.
Several drivers told CTV on Wednesday they were trying to sell their operating permits for anywhere from $120,000 to $165,000 without any luck.
One owner was willing to sell at a loss, asking for $30,000 less than the $180,000 he spent three years ago.
Nick Katsoukas, who bought his permit in 1975, is still working at 77 years old because he cannot afford to retire.
"When I first bought the permit I didn't have any money. My father gave, my brother-in-law gave, so I had to pay them back," said Katsoukas.
At the time he spent $10,000 -- the equivalent of $44,000 today.
"I was working 20, 24, 26 hours a day, on the weekends, to pay for that, and today they destroyed us," said Katsoukas.
After 41 years in the business, Katsoukas is ready to retire. Last year, he listed his taxi permit and car on Kijiji for $165,000, but is having no luck.
“Nobody is buying,” he said.
He is calling on the provincial government to bail out taxi drivers for the cost of their permits.
The provincial government will look at that possibility.
Transportation Minister Laurent Lessard said Wednesday that he will create a committee to look at what has been done for taxi drivers in other jurisdictions.
"I am not going to say now what we will do. Will it be a buy-back, compensation, some sort of fiscal compensation? We'll look at all of that," said Lessard.
In Montreal alone, buying back taxi permits for $150,000 would cost the government more than $500,000,000.
One of the terms of the Uber pilot project is having the multi-billion-dollars multinational company paying into a modernization fund for Quebec's taxi industry.
Quebec has set aside $5 million, while Uber will contribute an amount based on how much money its drivers earn.