Will MLS deliver?
To the surprise of virtually no one the promised review of the Toronto Vehicle for Hire bylaw has been delayed until September (at least).
One way to look at this delay is to say Municipal Licensing and Standards want to get it right and needs the extra time to reach that goal. That is great, if true.
We, on the other hand, are less sure. We have seen far too many reports and recommendations from Municipal Licensing and Standards, and its predecessor the Metropolitan Licensing Commission, to have any faith at all that this version of an examination of bylaw changes will be anything other than the same old failure to accept that the City screwed up yet again by not actually listening to the industry and its needs and complaints while doing everything possible to milk the participants in the industry dry through grossly excessive licensing fees and imposed costs that keep driver incomes at the barest minimum while doing nothing to protect the public interest.
Certainly a clear-eyed, honest assessment should address a number of disastrous provisions and deliberate omissions in the last round of so-called “reforms”.
We start with the overarching necessity for the City to treat Uber and other Public Transportation Companies exactly as they treat licensed taxicabs. Period. Then those rules must be assiduously and fairly enforced.
We are delighted that finally PTC drivers must collect and submit HST as taxi drivers do. The Canada Revenue Agency through the Federal government considers PTCs to be taxicabs for tax purposes. It is high time cities also acknowledge this basic principle.
The report must intelligently address the outright blunder of ridiculous vehicle requirements for the new Toronto Taxi License, where license holders must buy expensive to purchase, maintain and insure wheelchair vehicles, whether the marketplace needs them or not. The City must realize even disabled demand for them is minimal, to say the least. While we agree the disabled in our city deserve accessible taxi options, the absurd requirement that all taxis must eventually be wheelchair accessible must be trashed. That Uber and other app-based companies are exempt from this requirement is a major reason licensed taxis have been put at a huge competitive disadvantage. Don’t try to say this was not a deliberate anti-taxi strategy from the City. We won’t believe you.
For public and driver safety, all Uber-registered (and other PTC) vehicles must have cameras installed. The value of cameras to protect both passengers and drivers is too well documented to deny. There have been too many assaults against drivers, and driver assaults against passengers, in Uber and other PTC vehicles in Toronto alone, to ignore (as much as the City would like to do so).
City-run vehicle inspections for all vehicles carrying the public for hire must be reinstated for the safety of the public.
City-run driver training for taxi and PTC drivers must likewise be brought back. A divided and broke taxi industry simply is not equipped or capable of picking up this function, particularly as driver training at present is not mandatory.
The City must return to putting a tight cap on the numbers of taxis and PTCs permitted to operate. This proven way of providing service to the public while allowing industry participants to make a decent living is the number one reason licensed taxis and PTC drivers are struggling (to put it mildly). And as an aside, does anyone really believe there are 30-39,000 Uber cars taking orders on Toronto streets daily? Really? Please. Let’s require an accurate count of how many PTCs are actually operating daily, weekly and monthly.
Customers must have a clear understanding of what a ride in a taxi or PTC vehicle will cost at the outset. We note many customers seem to have awakened to the reality that PTCs may not be the great deal they thought they would be, and are returning to the price security of licensed taxis.
It has been fascinating to watch the ongoing self-destruction of Uber, with it’s founder fired by company shareholders, other senior executives also canned, criminal allegations of stealing another company’s secrets, a well-documented corporate culture of sexual harassment with more lawsuits and other criminal charges now in progress and a business model founded on the principle that laws do not apply to them.
It is well past time the City awoke to reality. We expect the forthcoming MLS assessment to intelligently and seriously address these and other issues. To do otherwise will be a serious breach of government responsibility and a betrayal of public trust.