City adds insult to injury, burying taxi drivers with bogus parking infractions
by Mike Beggs
Toronto taxi drivers say they’re increasingly being mailed $150 parking tickets under Mayor John Tory’s “No Stopping” rules during rush hour -- even though they’re clearly exempt from these amended Parking laws.
What’s more, the iTaxiworkers Association claims these tickets are being generated under false pretenses, while drivers are performing their lawful duties under the regulations of Toronto Municipal Licensing & Standards (MLS).
iTaxi notes the amended Parking Bylaw, in Chapter 950-405, specifically states, “No stopping during rush hour times… this subsection shall not be deemed to prohibit a taxicab, or limousine from stopping while actually engaged in loading or unloading passengers on any highway.”
“We have had to attend Courts, and Tribunal to defend workers on these erroneously generated tickets as a matter of principle, as they are simply a cash grab by the City of Toronto,” iTaxi states in a press release.
Mayor John Tory introduced his Zero Tolerance policy for parking in rush hour routes in January of 2015, because in his words, “traffic congestion is strangling our city.” But three years later, it seems taxi drivers are still taking the butt end of these changes.
iTaxi general secretary Ejaz Butt says much of the problem stems from the July of 2015 amendment to the Provincial Offences Act, granting new municipal powers for TPS Parking Enforcement Officers to simply jot down the vehicle’s license plate number and mail off the ticket.
Ostensibly, this amendment was made to combat those sneaky motorists who would speed away before the officer could affix a ticket to their windshield. Councillor Mike Layton was among those to complain about these people, who park illegally and tie up traffic, while they pop in for a coffee with their emergency flashers on. However, in the early discussion of this proposal, the late Mayor Rob Ford deemed it, “nothing but a cash grab.”
Flash forward to 2018, and it seems taxi drivers are still getting wrongfully dinged for $150 – but now with no chance for rebuttal with the officer in question.
“It’s totally unfair,” Butt says. “We are working -- and there’s a huge number of tickets (being handed out). And now, there are 50,000 Uber X vehicles. They’re finishing the industry.”
“It’s a cash grab. The City only cares about money these days.”
According to iTaxi executive director Sajid Mughal, most of these tickets are being handed out on downtown streets during rush hour.
“But many officers are giving out tickets left and right, and they don’t care about the exemption. They don’t even know, they don’t understand the bylaw,” he alleges.
“If I’m sitting in my cab and I get a ticket, I can see private cars are sitting there (as well) and there’s nothing happening. If that happens to be an Uber car, who cares? They don’t get a ticket.”
The recipient of three such fines in the past six months, Mughal claims the City got the bylaw amended without letting anybody know.
“There was no public notification. This is wrong doing this,” he adds.
Peter’s Taxi owner Peter Mandronis notes officers can now simply write “Drove Away” on the ticket and mail it off. He agrees it’s a cash grab, and nothing new for Toronto taxi drivers.
“They don’t know the bylaw in and out. And the policemen they find a way to cover their quotas,” he alleges.
For years, Toronto cabbies say they have been cut no slack by Police or Licensing Enforcement Officers, even though TPS counts on them to be, “an extra set of eyes and ears out on the streets”, and they pay among the highest licensing fees in the world.
Long-time owner/operator Aldo Marchese considered it “disrespectful, and very unprofessional” when he received a mail-out ticket in December, after he had stopped around 12:30 p.m. to run in for a take-out lunch. According to Marchese, he saw the Parking Enforcement Officer in front of him, and explained that he was just leaving his car for a minute -- but he was nailed nonetheless.
“It’s a big scam. They don’t have to get out of their car, they just sit there and send it off,” he complains.
“I’m just trying to do my job. We’re out there trying to earn a living, and a lot of the guys (aren’t making it).”
Marchese stresses that a cab driver may require some extra time to drop off a passenger with a disability, a mother with a child in a stroller, or people coming from the airport with lots of luggage.
“It’s a cab,” agrees Peter’s Taxi owner Peter Mandronis. “The people take a cab to drop them at their front door, or at their office.
“What are you going to tell the passenger? ‘You just jump out of the cab.’ The cab has to stop for 10 to 30 seconds. The driver is not doing a crime.”
In fact, taxis and limos have been protected by this exemption for drop-offs and pickups since the late 1970’s, under the old “Joe Piccininni Law”.
But, in the early stages of Tory’s No Stopping blitz, cabbies were being wrongly handed this $150 ticket with such regularity that veteran owner/operator Gerry Manley launched a one-man campaign forcing Police Services to remind officers about the taxi and limo exemption.
He pointed to a, “a longstanding lack of education of Toronto police officers in this area.”
“Many, many officers in the Toronto Police Services are not familiar with the Toronto Traffic Bylaw, or section of the Highway Traffic Act pertaining to taxis and limos,” he told Taxi News at the time.
In Taxi News’ Cops & Cabs series back in 2006, countless drivers voiced their frustrations with overzealous or “serial” ticketing at the hands of police and licensing enforcement officers.
A driver named Mohammed complained that, “Once the cops catch you, they give you at least three tickets”, tying drivers up for half an hour over such relatively minor violations as “Unclean Car”, and “No Trip Sheet”, and costing them hundreds of dollars in fines and often points off their license.
“You have more than 16 hours on the road, and there’s no mercy,” he told Taxi News.
Drivers say their taxis have always been “easy targets” for officers, identifiable because of their cab number, rooflight, and brokerage colours. And they’re fuming that the City is now failing to crack down on the 50,000 rival Uber X drivers, the vast majority of whom they allege are failing to display the obligatory ID sticker, in violation of the 2016 Vehicle For Hire bylaw.