Busy times at MLS
Unfortunately, taxis don’t appear to be playing much of a role on that busy agenda.
Now that the City’s Auditor General has presented her report on Municipal Licensing and Standards operations we can come to a couple of conclusions.
We are delighted the AG took a good hard look at MLS and it seems as if the recommendations made are reasonable and doable.
That said, we are disappointed that nothing in the AG report deals directly with taxi issues. Also worth noting is that no Council members on the Audit Committee asked any questions about the current state of the taxi industry. The impression we get is that most consider the taxi industry problems dealt with and not needing further study or bylaw revisions.
On the plus side for taxis, in response to a letter from Councillor Jim Karygiannis, the Licensing and Standards Committee on October 20th voted to get a report in the first quarter of next year on forcing all Private Hire Vehicles to have cameras installed. This is in response to a number of highly publicized sexual assaults in the Toronto area in Private Transportation Company vehicles. The motion also asked for an “update on the status on other outstanding directives.”
To the surprise of no one at this point, it realistically will be some months down the line at least before the taxi industry sees an assessment of the effects of the latest round of industry “reforms” enacted by Council. Cook told this newspaper she has no time line on when that review will take place or be reported upon.
While it is appalling that the backlog of reports ordered by the City from MLS staff is as large as it is, the AG recognizes that MLS simply does not have the resources, meaning primarily people, to do everything demanded of it. While it is likely some more senior analysts will be hired, it is also likely to be an extended period before any new hires can get up to speed on the various files they will have to work on. These things do not happen overnight, particularly as some of the issues to be studied are seriously complex.
One thing Cook commented on to this paper is that more money than expected is coming in from the City’s cut from Uber rides. The obvious speculation that arises is the City has no intention of reducing or cutting off the flow of this new revenue. This is bad news for taxi people. More information about how much the City is receiving from Uber, and what it means for the MLS revenue stream, will hopefully be coming out next month. But the good news is Cook also said MLS does not intend to raise taxi-related fees in the next budget. We’ll be better able to comment about this when we get the numbers.
Given the revelations from the AG about how MLS deals with the length of time it takes to deal with complaints, and some very interesting observations on how enforcement issues are processed, it is likely we will begin to see a better, more efficient complaint and enforcement process. This also is good news.
Also good news is the recognition that MLS is much improved from several years ago in how it deals with new license applications and renewals. Something had to be done and it looks as if the new systems and people dealing with these aspects of licensing are working reasonably well.
All this said, good and bad, we do suggest it may well be time for the City to consider again a stand-alone agency dealing directly and solely with mobile businesses in Toronto like taxis, limousines, PTCs, etc. Too often it seems, taxi and similar business issues are lost in the whole business licensing morass. This is not a new idea but it may well be time to revisit it.
The City itself says yours is a billion dollar a year business that is seriously important to City interests. We suggest it is time the City treated it as such.