Industry veteran disputes Deputy Mayor’s assessment of VFH Bylaw
To the editor,
(Editor’s note: The following is an email exchange between Toronto Councillor Ana Bailão and industry advocate Gerry Manley. The councillor’s letter appears first.)
Thank you for your advocacy on third-party training for vehicles for hire.
As you know, Toronto City Council reviewed the current bylaws for vehicles for hire yesterday. As a Council, we adopted many measures to improve safety and accessibility for drivers and passengers of taxicabs, limousines and private transportation companies. I was happy to support all the measures listed below.
The new public safety measures:
• Increase the current minimum years of driving experience from one year to three years.
• Make it mandatory for all drivers to take a third-party training program approved by the City. Preliminary topics include: transporting passengers in a safe manner; driving in an urban setting; providing accessible service; anti-racism, diversity and sensitivity; and legal requirements.
• Require all drivers to affix “Watch for Bike” notices to their vehicles. PTCs will also be required to push notifications to passengers that instruct them to look for cyclists before exiting a vehicle.
• Mandate drivers to securely mount all handheld devices to their vehicle.
• Require drivers to display notices if a camera is being used to record passengers.
In addition to these new requirements, Council adopted further amendments to the Bylaw to improve the licensing and enforcement of the vehicle-for-hire industry. This includes increasing the amount of data that is collected to help inform future regulations.
The new requirements, which will come into effect on January 1, 2020, were based on significant public consultation and research undertaken by staff over the past two years. This includes 18 public consultations, third-party public opinion research, meetings with an Accessibility Panel, a review of other jurisdictions and internal data, and a Transportation Impact Study and Economic Impact Analysis. More information on the review can be found at www.toronto.ca/vehicleforhirereview.
I specifically want to thank Cheryl Hawkes, who suffered the unnecessary and tragic loss of her young son Nicholas and managed to channel that pain into positive change. Cheryl, your strength and resolve is an inspiration to me and our entire community.
Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with me and I look forward to continue representing your interests each day at City Hall.
Councillor, Ward 9 – Davenport
Unfortunately the loss of Mrs. Hawkes’ son will not be properly addressed to ensure it won’t happen again, if I am to believe the contents of your email, which, after 46-plus years of owning and driving a taxicab in Toronto, I don’t.
Involvement in driving any vehicle-for-hire is built on three solid cornerstones:
1. Wanting to be in the industry for all the right reasons, not just monetary.
2. Applying common courtesies, such as treating the customer in your vehicle the way you would want one of your family members treated.
3. Industry experience, which can only be attained with years in the industry to acquire knowledge of where streets are, points of interests, goings on in the City each week, etc.
All the classroom education in the world cannot achieve what your email is suggesting, as this is a hands-on industry and must be learned in that manner.
The idea of bringing in driver education, in reality, should be the responsibility of the Province, not the municipality, as it is the Province who gives the person the right to drive, not the municipality.
It could very well be argued that the municipal requirement for a driver’s licence is illegal, as I already have permission to drive from the Province, whether for personal reasons or commercially making the City requirement ultra vires, redundant, a moot point and without effect.
If you truly wanted to address this, I would suggest you start meetings with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, with the end result of returning to the licensing scheme that used to be mandatory in Ontario.
That scheme was an operators licence and a chauffeurs licence, with the latter being a licence to work commercially and the testing was much more difficult to be issued that licence.
Having experienced several years of “watch for bike” stickers affixed to the front driver’s and passenger rear view mirrors, I can assure you that if I, as a driver, did not warn my passenger to watch out for bicycles before they open the door, they wouldn’t, so do you really think affixing more stickers will achieve the results the City seeks? Be assured, it won’t and in reality, it is against the Ontario Highway Traffic Act to pass on the right within the lane, which is what happens if the opening of a vehicle door comes in contact with a person riding a bicycle. The vast majority of bicycle accidents from opening vehicle doors would be avoided if the bicycle rider would:
“OBEY THE RULES OF THE ROAD AS CONTAINED IN THE ONTARIO HIGHWAY TRAFFIC ACT.”
Enforcement in this and most areas of the VFH industry is mostly non-existent because bylaw inspectors have no authority to stop a vehicle and police officers are too busy investigating more serious crimes and rarely involve themselves in VFH bylaw infractions, other than on an occasional blitz where they work with the MLS bylaw inspector to stop the VFH operators.
Considering the vast majority of the current 90,000 PTC operators still do not have the bylaw mandated identification stickers affixed to their vehicle windows, how do you think enforcement can be applied to them?
With all due respect Councillor, because neither you nor any other City Councillor really know how the VFH industry works and you all rely on staff reports that NEVER give you all the information you require to make a more educated decision on this industry’s issues (and because staff NEVER listens to the vast majority of issues our industry membership raise), your comments, although well intended, amount to nothing more than a public relations exercise.
Although I do not live in your Ward, if you would really like to know how the MLS and City Council decisions are heading the City’s taxi industry towards eradication, which will financially ruin the livelihoods and financial futures of our 15,000+ members and their families (many of whom live in your Ward), I would be more than happy to meet with you and give you the whole story.