Ever get the feeling no one out there really cares about your problems?
Early in April one of my regular correspondents, frustrated at futile attempts to get answers from any of the political parties running candidates in the upcoming provincial election, asked if I, through Taxi News, might have more success.
Simply, he wants to know if any of the parties or candidates are willing to do anything about the disaster licensed taxicab companies are going though, faced with unfair competition from app-based taxi dispatchers.
I can try, I thought, so I sent off emails around the middle of the month to each of the three main parties.
With amendments making each request party specific, here is what I asked all three, although this one is addressed to the Tories:
“Hello: I am John Duffy, Publisher of Taxi News, a monthly newspaper serving the GTA for the past 35 years.
“Does the PC party have any policy on assisting licensed taxicab drivers and owners faced with dire economic circumstances resulting from the appearance of app-based dispatching companies in Ontario markets?
“The companies do not have to obey the regulations established for licensed taxis by municipalities across the province: e.g., no safety cameras, no need for snow tires in winter, no municipal requirement for drivers to have commercial insurance on their vehicles (resulting in the possibility of app-based drivers facing criminal charges for insurance fraud), apparently no need to provide accessible service, and so on. The lack of these onerous licensing requirements, established for public safety, has given these new companies a distinct price advantage over traditional licensed taxis.
“Does the PC party anticipate any commitments to help alleviate this situation?
“I would appreciate comments from Mr. Ford on this matter, either in a live interview by phone or by email. Thank you.”
Last month I reported to you the vast amounts of money (more than $8.4 million a year) the City of Toronto is making from Private Transportation Companies with apparently no expenditure regulating those companies.
As an aside, in the last week of April it was reported that in a US city a man posing as an Uber driver “inappropriately touched” one woman who mistakenly thought he was with that company, and allegedly raped another woman who also mistook the man’s van for her Uber ride.
The adult daughter of one of my wife and I’s closest friends living downtown commented to me recently that she was unable to identify an Uber car she had called for. Do you think this is uncommon? Do you think it is a good idea that young women should have to approach random drivers on the street to see if they are the PTC rides they had asked for? If your answer is “Yes,” I’d say “Really?!” I frankly think this situation is patently and inherently dangerous.
Uber and other app-based company vehicles are by law supposed to be identifiable. These incidents are clear examples of why this regulation is needed. Yet how often do you hear of our ever-vigilant regulators enforcing this law? Right. As if they give a hoot. Women get raped? Ho Hum. Stuff happens, they apparently think. They’ve got the money and that’s all the City cares about. The City might say it is tough to enforce. My answer is “So what? You can buy a lot of enforcement for $8.5 million a year.”
Back to my questions to the politicians.
A full week after sending the first emails, I still had not received a response so I sent a second to each party, including the first email, asking if they would be good enough to get back to me.
Guess what, and no prizes for a right answer – zero response. So a day before this paper went to press, I called each party asking for some kind of response or even acknowledgement of the query.
Well, as of this writing, I’ve had no answer by phone or email from any party. What does that tell you?
Here’s a thought for you to consider. If each of the 10,000 or so cab drivers in Toronto alone talks to 20 people a day in their cabs (the number may be more or less) that works out to, give or take, 20,000 voters a day.
If you politely (politely!) tell them how you feel about how you have been treated by our politicians municipally and provincially, I suspect you will start to get a message across. If you point out the gross unfairness of Toronto’s bylaws, the public may well start to listen. If you point out that there are serious public safety concerns, and double standards on insurance and cameras and snow tires and pricing and so on, if enough in the general public get the message, politicians may well be forced to start listening. If, if if…
It is up to you. I’ll keep trying, doing what I can, but if you don’t act I suspect things will only get worse.
Finally, I also spoke with someone in the industry who is intimately familiar with Uber and its insurance policy. I was told that even Uber drivers insure themselves with him, even though the policy costs another $1,200 a year ($4,800 vs $3,600). These drivers absolutely believe they will be better served if they are in accidents. I was also told horror stories of how injured passengers in app-based cars in accidents are dealt with.
I was also told police don’t lay charges against offending app-based drivers and won’t until told to do so by higher powers, like the Mayor and the Police Services Board. If true, this is an incredibly serious allegation.
Finally, he told me customers are starting to come back to traditional taxis, particularly downtown, but not so much in the suburbs. One suggestion for suburb-based dispatch companies is to let passengers know how long they should expect to wait for their rides, like Uber, etc do. He suggests customers would be much happier. It is something to think about.