New taxi co-op may offer much needed relief for struggling TTL operators
A new app-based co-op cab company is being formed under the initial management of the iTaxiworkers Association with assistance and participation of the group representing the interests of holders of TTL taxi licenses.
This announcement was made May 21st and organizers hope to get started after the month of Ramadan is over. A consultant is working with iTW on developing the app.
The aim is to compete with traditional cab companies and other app-based companies like Uber, offering customers lower fares with service provided by trained drivers.
Organizers like Sajid Mughal and Reza Houssanioun and others say membership in the co-op will be limited to people who actually drive cab, including owners who drive their own cabs daily.
They also say it is perfectly legal, under the bylaw, for drivers who work with traditional brokerages to also accept orders through the app. There was no mention at the meeting I attended of any restrictions on accepting orders from outside apps due to contractual obligations drivers and owners may have agreed to with their brokerage.
One share in the co-op will cost $1,000 per driver/owner. The group calculates it needs a minimum of 100 members ($100,000) to get the venture off and running. As time progresses, it is expected that members will receive dividends from the co-op to offset initial investment and later to provide additional income.
Houssanioun told the meeting he had already received some checks from interested drivers.
Initially, the plan is to have the co-op run by a board of people from iTW, later to expand to a wider group.
For more information call the iTW at 416-597-6838.
I see no reason for this idea not to work at this point – with one reservation. Traditional brokerages may have problems with their drivers accepting outside calls. While it is true there is nothing in the bylaw to prevent accepting outside app-based calls, (and I’ve written about this before) there could be contractual restrictions on the practice. It might be wise to do some checking before signing up, and make a decision accordingly.
With that said, competition is good and you experienced and professional drivers have much to offer customers, particularly if prices are competitive.
As I mentioned earlier, holders of TTL licenses have joined with the iTW to get their message across to the city.
In short, that message is that they are really, really hurting due to the restrictions and astronomical operating costs of operating the TTL. These plate holders are losing their shirts with these licenses.
Problems start with the initial high cost of the vehicle the City forces them to drive, which is between $60 and $80,000.
Insurance costs, naturally, depend on the record of the drivers and number of drivers on the cars. A single driver must pay between $6 and $7,000 a year to insure the vehicle. For cars with two drivers the cost is between $9 and $10,000 annually
I spoke with two TTL representatives, Imran Chowdury and Murtuza Gowher, who state they feel they have been “abandoned” by the City.
The City simply did not do its homework on the economics of operating the approximately 550 TTL plates and grossly misjudged the need for accessible vehicles in Toronto.
They tell me there is “no business” for TTL taxis. Customers avoid these cars like the plague. There is no street hail business for them and no business for them from taxi lineups. Disabled customers are not using them as it is still hugely cheaper to use WheelTrans service.
While technically it is legal to lease a TTL, the reality is drivers don’t want to get into these leases as they know they cannot make any money in these cars due to the restrictions the City has placed on them.
One representative states, “It is not the plate owner’s responsibility to subsidize accessible service.”
Chowdury notes Uber “does not a have a single wheelchair accessible van. They should be forced (to have them).”
Gowher said “The City, in 2014, played us. Bait and switch. They got us in the program and left us behind. It’s a bait and switch.”
They are right.
By creating this second tier system, the City, again, has created a disaster for the plate holders.
We are all waiting for a City staff report on the 2014 bylaw changes.
Many thanks for the expressions of sympathy I’ve received from readers over the passing of my Uncle, Frank (Toop) Parks in May. He was 97 years old so his passing while sad, was not unexpected. I really liked him. He certainly got a great sendoff including a 15 gun salute from his friends and comrades at his American Legion post and from his Masonic Order brothers, as well as graveside support from the US Navy. During WW2 he served as a Seabee (Construction Battalion) on the island of Guam in the Pacific. He was married to my father’s sister Marjorie for 71 years and with his brother owned and operated a grocery supermarket in Plainfield, Illinois.
What made things more difficult was that while I was in the US for Uncle Frank’s funeral, my nephew Mike Byron died of neuroendocrine cancer. He was only 31. His passing was also not unexpected, but we did hope to have him with us longer. At the end, he was being cared for at home in Brantford by his parents and brother. My wife and I and our kids did get to see him a couple of times before the end. In many ways his loss was more painful for my son than me, as he and all his cousins were truly friends, to the point of almost being brothers. It is one thing for a man to die in his 90’s after a full and great life. It is another thing entirely for a young man with huge promise to be taken from us so soon. Both will be missed.