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BRITISH COLUMBIA: Passenger Transportation Board Approves Use of Soft Meters for Taxi Industry with Mandatory Voice Output

Since 2009, Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers has been advocating to have the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB), the government body which regulates the taxi industry throughout BC, to mandate that taxi meters must have the capability for driver activated voice output if requested by a passenger with sight loss.

On November 16th, the PTB amended the rules regarding taxi meters and set forth their policy and rules regarding the use of soft meters in BC.

Soft meters are tablet based meters which rely on GPS technology to calculate the fare for a given trip. While the total faire is still based on time and distance, the consumer advantage of soft meter technology is the fact it eliminates any possibility of driver tampering with the meter and provides a detailed printed receipt for each fare when the trip is completed.

Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers is pleased to announce that the PTB has responded positively to our endless requests for driver activated audio output and we share the following requirements from the rules posted on the PTB web site relating to the installation and use of soft meters:

Appendix D: Fare Announcer (“Talking Meters”)

  • 1. A taxi licensee may only use a taxi soft meter that is installed with a functioning fare announcer that: a) A driver can easily activate and silence at the request of a passenger b) Announces the following in English:
    i. Upon meter activation: The taxi company name, the unique taxi ID number for the vehicle, and the flag rate. ii. During a trip: The trip fare at regular intervals (e.g. every $1 or $2).
    iii. When a trip concludes: The total fare, the company name, and unique taxi ID for the vehicle.
    iv. If turned off while a trip is in progress: A verbal acknowledgement that the fare announcer has been turned off and that the meter is still running.
    c) Has been user tested by at least one person who is blind or partially sighted (as opposed to persons with vision loss corrected by prescription glasses).
  • 2. Notwithstanding (1) above, a taxi licensee is temporarily exempt from fare announcer requirements in this rule if the maker of the taxi soft meter model supplies a commitment letter that it will, within 6 months, incorporate a fare announcer into that model. This temporary exemption is in effect until the earliest of these two dates:
    i. The date that falls 6 months after the Board receives a Declaration of Compliance (Appendix E) from the licensee, or
    ii. The date that fare announcers are installed and operational as part of the taxi soft meter system.
  • 3. The taxi licensee must provide training to all drivers on when and how to use the fare announcer.
  • 4. The taxi licensee must comply with fare announcer requirements unless otherwise approved by the Board.

Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers will be following up with the PTB to determine if the requirement for volume and speech rate adjustments were accidently omitted or overlooked as they too were part of our requirements. We shall keep the community advised on this aspect of the soft meter rules.

Rob Sleath
Chair, Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers