When there is unmet demand for taxi services there may be excessive queuing at taxi ranks. Passengers may have to wait for an unreasonably long time for a taxi, particularly at peak times. An unmet demand survey is used to ascertain whether there is a significant demand for taxi services that is not met and whether the licensing authority should grant more licences. The level of demand for private hire vehicles can be more difficult to establish since these have to be pre-booked by the passenger.
The Department of Transport recommends that an unmet demand survey should be carried out when a licensing authority seeks to retain or implement a restriction on the number of licenses it grants. An unmet demand survey will meet the requirements of Section 16 of the 1985 Transport Act that states that the grant of a licence may only be refused if the local authority or other body is satisfied that there is no significant unmet demand for Hackney carriages in the area to which the licence applies.
If the results of an unmet demand survey demonstrate significant unmet demand, the licensing authority may be recommended to either remove the limit on Hackney Carriage licences or raise it to meet the demand.
If no evidence of unmet demand is demonstrated the licensing authority may keep the current limit or introduce one if there is not a limit in place.
It is good practice for licensing authorities to try to ascertain the level of demand before imposing or reducing a limit on the number of licenses it grants. The same principles usually apply to private hire vehicles which are subject to licensing as long as the district council has adopted Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Unmet demand surveys may incorporate the collection of data on activity at taxi ranks with consultation with the trade, stakeholders and the public before the conclusions and recommendations are published.