City’s bylaw provisions on flat rates give taxis short end of the stick
by Mike Beggs
(Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment in Taxi News’s series on veteran industry observer Gerry Manley’s monthly letters addressing the many problems and outright failures inherent in the City of Toronto’s calamitous 2016 Vehicle-For-Hire Bylaw. Readers interested in reading the Manley letter discussed in this article will find it and previous letters in the series posted here.)
In this month’s letter, Manley takes issue with the regulations surrounding the setting of Flat Rates for taxis, which he says has always been, “a very slippery slope”, and even more so in these dreadful times for cab drivers.
He stresses that under Bylaw 546, Appendix A, Taxicab Tariffs and Charges, all taxis must have meters, which are programmed to charge by a combination of time and distance -- whereas flat rates are quoted by brokerages on distance alone, often ending up well below the meter rate.
He has been an opponent of flat rates since their inception, some two decades ago.
“There’s not one that’s accurate. They’re all under-quoted,” he claims. When they were first introduced, all of the flat rates east of Yonge Street were too low.”
With today’s downtown gridlock, he says it’s that much worse.
“The person quoting the rate from pick-up to drop-off time wouldn’t know the road conditions, traffic, possible accidents, construction, time of day – and of course there’s the 83,000 additional (PTC) cars,” he explains, “The trips are often substantially under-quoted, and the driver is not receiving what Appendix A guarantees he or she is supposed to be paid.”
That’s because of the removal of a critical section of Bylaw 545 that read, “A taxi broker may enter into a flat rate arrangement with charge account customers, provided that the taxi broker shall not pay any driver who services a flat rate any less, or significantly more than the meter rate for that call.”
That stipulation meant the driver could file a report with Toronto Municipal Licensing
“But now (under Bylaw546), if according to the meter the trip runs significantly more than the quoted flat rate, the driver has no recourse to get paid what the meter says,” he relates. “He now has to eat the difference, which is in conflict with the bylaw’s tariff. The way it’s set up is totally unfair to the driver.”
And as if that wasn’t enough, Manley points to different rules for ridesharing under the VFH Bylaw – even though taxis, limos, and PTC vehicles are all defined as operating a taxi business under the federal Excise Tax Act!
“They’re quoting a flat rate 40 percent below the taxi meter. We can’t compete,” he complains.
“Why don’t the same rules apply to PTC’s? They’re licensed in the bylaw.”
He notes that, under the VFH bylaw, if a trip destination is located more than five kilometres beyond Toronto, the vehicle-for-hire driver operating a taxi and a passenger may agree before the start of the trip to a flat rate, but the driver must run the trip meter.
“I have never understood how the City feels it has the right to legislate one inch outside of their municipal boundaries,” he comments. “Or if I’m allowed to set a flat rate initiating within my City’s boundaries that is going outside of those boundaries, why am I not able to set a flat rate for a fare originating and staying within the City’s boundaries, as long as the meter is in the recording position?”
For Manley, airport flat rates have, similarly, always been a point of contention.
He cites one airport run from downtown during rush hour which was quoted at $45, while the meter ran to $61 – meaning he ended up $16 out of pocket.
“It has been illegal from Day One,” he alleges. “You can’t under-quote what I get on my meter.”
And he wants to know why Appendix C, Taxicab Tariffs to Pearson International Airport doesn’t apply to PTC drivers as well.
“Does this not show the City is showing favouritism, and abusing its licensing authority by not requiring PTC’s and their drivers to abide by Appendix C?” he asks.
Manley maintains the term “flat rates” is antiquated, and needs to be replaced with the wording “approximate rates” in the bylaw, to match them more closely with the meter rate and give cabbies the chance to make a decent buck.
“How can you possibly fault me, if I get stuck in traffic on the 401?” he asks. “But the bylaw says that’s what was quoted, and that is that.
“It’s a serious problem if we’re supposed to go by what the meter says, and we’ve lost 75 percent of our business. How can you expect the driver to take this kind of loss, especially when the City is in conflict with its own bylaw?”
He says cabbies are more upset about flat rates, than ever, because of the shortage of fares.
“This is a big deal now. And it’s time the City should wake up. They’re violating their own bylaw. If they’re going to quote flat rates, make sure it’s as close to the meter as possible taking into account all of those considerations (road conditions, time of day, weather, etc.). Don’t just go on your app and say, ‘It’s 15 kilometres, we charge this much.’
“In today’s city of Toronto, you can’t even come close to the flat rates.”