A race to the bottom
In about six weeks the people of Ontario will go to the polls to determine the next provincial government. With that in mind, in the middle of April Taxi News sent emails to all three political parties asking about their policies regarding taxicabs across the province and specifically about cabs in the Greater Toronto Area, devastated by the advent of app-based dispatching companies.
When no response came after a week, a follow up email was sent to each party. A week later, after deafening silence, we followed up with phone calls asking for some kind of response.
By press time, there was zero response from any party.
This should tell you all you really need to know about how much our politicians care about tens of thousands of traditional taxicab drivers, mostly immigrants hoping for a better life in this land, trying desperately to feed their families.
We’ll put it bluntly. Provincial politicians don’t give a damn about you.
In Toronto politicians ignore your situation for at least one patently obvious reason: the City is making too much money, without having to lift a finger, from app-based rides to take your desperation seriously.
Taxis must still bear the enormous costs of keeping City licenses, including buying new vehicles, some buying accessible vehicles, installing snow tires, buying and maintaining in-car cameras and buying commercial insurance, all costs the Private Transportation Companies (PTC’s) are immune from paying. City officials tell us there are currently 32 accessible vehicles operating on the Uber/Lyft, etc. platforms, of more than 50,000 vehicles registered. Our City councillors were frothing about lack of service for the disabled when there were several hundred accessible taxis out of 5,000. No double standard here?
Now we’re hearing stories about Uber and Lyft cars horning in on designated taxi stands! Police aren’t ticketing app-based drivers, we’re reliably told, because they have been told to leave them alone. No double standard at work here?
We also note that at new TTC stations, like Downsview Park, Finch West, York University and Pioneer Village, there are no designated cabstands. Surprised? We’re not. The TTC is happy to take passengers to intermediate stops and then tells them to fend for themselves.
Remember our Mayor and too many councillors smugly parroting the Uber line about these cars actually decreasing road congestion? We do. But now the studies are starting to come in. Just the opposite is true. PTCs actually increase congestion and decrease public transit ridership.
Don’t forget the long-overdue report ordered by Council on the effects of the latest batch of taxi “reforms.” Obviously giving our civil servants orders is a useless waste of time, unless orders have come down from on high to delay this report as much as possible, a scenario that is not truly out of the question.
We do see some glimmers of light: some are telling us some downtown passengers are starting to return to taxis, apparently dissatisfied with the PTC driver quality and surge pricing. Plus the safety (particularly for women passengers) of app-based rides are increasingly under public scrutiny.
Meanwhile Uber and others are rapidly (desperately?) trying to move into other transportation-related fields, with the speculation being they are losing money with their core “taxi” business. Being kicked out of countries and smaller jurisdictions hasn’t helped. Neither have rulings in Europe saying Uber drivers must be treated as employees and these companies may be regulated as taxis.
Nonetheless we have at least four suicides in New York City alone directly related to grossly unfair competition and, essentially, the deregulation of taxis there. We see almost one alleged sexual assault a week in Uber cars in London, England. We can only suppose political inability to know or understand the lessons of history (Ireland’s deregulation, for example) is all too common.
All Toronto’s taxi people, drivers and owners alike, asked for was a degree of respect and fairness, when Uber came on the scene. What they got was just the opposite, preferential treatment given to the newcomer and more of the same old gross disrespect and overregulation for traditional taxi businesses, with you and the people of Toronto ultimately left holding the short end of the stick.