What’s wrong with this picture?
If anything more is needed to illustrate the contempt in which the City of Toronto holds taxicab drivers, you need look no farther than how the City is treating perhaps 50 beleaguered business owners on King St. East, allegedly devastated by changes to car traffic on that street.
In response to vocal complaints by business owners, new parking spaces have been added, street art and entertainment events are contemplated. Mayor John Tory is repeatedly on TV news shows saying how much he and the City care for these businesses, announcing new initiatives to help them out. Sweet of him to care.
But compare this treatment to how taxi drivers and owners have been treated by City Hall. Start with the fact that legally each taxi owner and driver is a small independent business just like the small businesses on King. Any rational person would think taxi people might deserve the same consideration as restaurant owners. Fat chance.
The City has deliberately allowed app-based dispatching to flourish, giving these companies a free pass to destroy lifetimes of work, devotion to customer service and financial investment in what should and could still be a proud contributor to a healthy city.
The City does not enforce what laws it has governing the app-based companies while continuing to persecute licensed taxis and their drivers for trivial bylaw offenses. City inspectors allow part-time competitors to operate without the required insurance, thereby abetting the criminal offense of Insurance Fraud. City inspectors do not ticket these newcomer cars and drivers for any offenses at all, including not being properly identified. Bylaw tickets from four years ago have yet to come before a Justice of the Peace!
The list of passengers abused in one way or another by app-based drivers working with obviously inadequate background checks keeps growing. These drivers have had zero training and far too many haven’t the foggiest clue about city geography.
The City has ceased all training for licensed taxi drivers. It has eliminated City mechanical fitness inspections for all mobile vehicles. It does not require cameras or trouble lights for app-dispatched cars and no longer checks the safety equipment in licensed taxis. It no longer even checks taximeters for accuracy! Don’t these people at city hall care in the slightest about customer and driver safety on the streets? Obviously not.
Now reliable studies are out saying that app-based commercial for-hire vehicle services actually make traffic congestion worse on downtown streets in cities studied. (As if this is a surprise to anyone.) So you can imagine how we react when we hear some pious politician blathering on about how much they care for our environment.
Now two New York City cab drivers have committed suicide in absolute despair over how that city and state have allowed their lives to be destroyed.
While we’ve heard of no tragedies to this extreme in Toronto, the taxi situation here is arguably worse than in New York City. In Europe there have been demonstrations and violent assaults over app-based dispatching. We fervently hope it doesn’t come to this here, but are truly afraid it could. Do our politicians care to have this blood on their hands? Obviously it does not bother them in the least, or they would have done something about it before now.
City hall panders to a handful of small businesses on King St. while blithely ignoring 10,000 to 15,000 other small businesses devastated by destructive City Hall decisions.
Meanwhile we are still waiting for an assessment of the last round of taxi industry “reforms” enacted by city hall. This evaluation is more than a year overdue, placed on a back burner by a bureaucracy we strongly believe is marching to orders from senior City officials.
We do know the Licensing and Standards Committee has tried to light a fire under Municipal Licensing and Standards staff to get the report done. But given the realities of the situation at city hall we hold out little hope that any such report, if and when it is published, will offer anything more than a whitewash of your problems. We’d love to be proven wrong.