Why not open up TTC accessible contracts to entire taxi industry?
by Gerry Manley
To the editor,
(Editor’s note: This is an open letter to the TTC regarding accessible transportation provided through TTC service contracts with the City of Toronto taxicab industry.)
If I could show the TTC that there is a way to save somewhere between 10 and 20 million dollars in operating costs surrounding accessible transportation provided through the TTC and its taxicab industry partners, would you be interested? I believe you would be, so here are my suggestions.
Presently there are just over 300 accessible taxicab vans involved in the TTC contract that work from five licensed Toronto taxicab brokerages. However, there are in fact approximately 250 more accessible vans available for servicing that either do not work in brokerages that are connected with the TTC contract or are fulfilling the mandates of the province for on-demand accessible service. There are presently less than half of the available 4,950 taxicab sedans involved in the sedan contract with the TTC working from only two licensed taxicab brokerages. There is a way to get all of the available taxicab fleet involved in the TTC accessible transportation servicing while saving the TTC millions of dollars in the process.
The TTC presently has contracts with four City of Toronto taxicab brokerages, with one brokerage having two contracts, one being wheelchair accessible vans and one being half of the sedan contract and that brokerage is Co-Op taxi. It is my estimation from previous contracts that you are paying these brokerages somewhere in the vicinity of five to six million dollars to cover the drivers as well as brokerage administrative costs. The break down and exact amounts should be simple to calculate.
On top of those expenses, you have to have TTC staff answer the phones, book the calls, send a massive amount of paper work out each and every night for the next day’s runs, and that total is also in the millions of dollars. So here is how my suggestion would work.
Since PTC’s like Uber and Lyft have already shown they do not want to be included in the transporting of the disability community and are willing to pay an undetermined amount to the City to assist in this service, the new service contract should be only with the taxicab industry.
The TTC with the assistance of the MLS and corporate communications needs to develop an app, similar to the ones Uber and Lyft operate, one for the consumer and one for the taxicab driver. It cannot be like the ones presently operated by taxicab brokerages as those apps still must go through the brokerage where the Uber and Lyft app go directly from consumer to the driver who will be servicing them; the app should have direct contact information both ways and the consumer can track where the vehicle is and how long before it arrives. It app should also give the client the closest vehicle available. There of course would be one app for wheelchair accessible vans, and one for sedan servicing.
This would eliminate any waiting for the most part and the difficulty the TTC consumer has in contacting the TTC for servicing and worrying whether their appointment will be concluded in time to catch their return ride home. Of course phone-in service would still be available for the few who do not have a cell phone, which is rare today, even in the senior community.
The TTC would now have 550 licensed City taxicabs that are wheelchair accessible vans and approximately 4,950 licensed City sedan taxicabs available for TTC accessible servicing and the servicing of the TTC app can be made mandatory for every licensed City taxicab whether accessible vans or sedans as part of their licensing regime. It certainly would make more on-demand vehicles available to meet the mandate of of the City’s regulations, and would greatly enhance the currently dismal earning capability of taxi drivers, and greatly ease the disability community’s worries about the provision of adequate accessible transportation.
Restricting the contracts to just four taxicab brokerages makes no sense whatsoever when less than half of the current taxicab fleet is being utilized. May I suggest that the present $2.99 per km paid to the wheelchair accessible vans be re-negotiated for the next contract and that sedans doing accessible servicing should be paid in the area of $2.25 per km rather than the current $1.74, as that rate has not risen in several years and like the vans, it does take extra time to load and unload accessible clients.
As Uber and Lyft do, every taxicab driver would submit a copy of a bank account so that whatever they are owed can be deposited directly into their accounts on a time basis that is mutually acceptable to both parties.
These suggestions will enhance the servicing of the TTC’s accessible taxi services many times over and remove much of the burden of servicing from the regular TTC services, while taking advantage of the City’s entire taxicab fleet and giving access to all of the taxicab industry membership who are presently in severe financial distress due to the arrival of PTC’s in the Toronto taxi marketplace.