Discussing the recent move by City Council to examine training for all taxi and other Vehicle-For-Hire licensees, City Mayor John Tory explained, “Safety is, of course, the number one consideration.”
Really? Seriously? These people make it far too easy. If that statement is true, taxicab and VFH licensees mandatory driver training requirements would never have been scrapped in 2016.
Suggest to any taxicab driver out there that it was good idea to scrap driver training and you will be laughed at, at best. All though the consultation process leading up to the 2016 taxi “reforms” the only thing the City heard from the taxi industry was for the need to improve and perhaps expand driver training. No one in the industry suggested scrapping driver training in any way.
Yet the industry was blindsided by MLS staff recommending scrapping a training program that had been professionally developed by the City over better than 25 years and that was in fact the envy of other municipalities world-wide. We believe the only rationale for the City scrapping driver training was to give another advantage to app-based dispatching companies.
Safety of taxi and other drivers and passengers and the general public was simply ignored. It took the tragic and utterly foreseeable death of a young man riding in an Uber car driven by an untrained and utterly incompetent driver, followed by a concerted and highly effective awareness campaign conducted by Nicholas Cameron’s mother and his family, to get our City Council and the public to recognize there just might be a problem.
Councillors and City staff can not get around the fact that tragic passenger deaths were repeatedly predicted by taxi people at the time all safety programs were trashed. Taxi people told Council time and again, loudly and clearly, this would (not “could” but “would”) happen. They were ignored. At least one young Toronto man is dead as a result.
So now a new City Council has overwhelmingly voted to have staff give “consideration” of “all measures to increase public safety and the training requirements of Private Transportation Companies and other vehicles-for-hire; including restoring and improving the initial recommendations in the 2016 staff report.”
It also wants staff to recommend “a new public reporting process to City Council and the public on the safety records and performance of Private Transportation Companies license holders and companies.”
It is suggested these recommendations will be brought forward by the end of the first quarter of 2019. That is some 11 months after Nick Cameron was killed in an Uber car. The sense of urgency dealing with public safety is blinding. (Again, they make it far too easy.)
Making the problem worse is the fact that the City has handed over its bylaw enforcement function to Private Transportation Companies. Sure, bad drivers may get kicked off these company platforms, but they still keep their FHV licenses and can go drive for hire anywhere they want without a word showing on any permanent City record. The City doesn’t even track the types and numbers of complaints involving PTC drivers. Yet Mayor Tory has the monumental gall to say safety is, “of course”, the City’s top priority.
Hand in hand with scrapping driver training, the City also scrapped rigorous mechanical fitness inspections of vehicles used to carry paying passengers, (all Uber and Lyft dispatched vehicles are models of mechanical perfection at all times, just like taxis, don’t you know). The City no longer checks and calibrates taxi meters. The City no longer inspects in-car cameras to ensure they are working. Please explain to us how passenger, driver or public safety is in any way a City priority.
The taxi industry is cautiously applauding the motion, brought by Councillor Mike Layton and seconded by Councillor Josh Matlow. We say “cautiously” because this industry has been burned far too often in the past to be confident it will be treated fairly now.
Simply put, the vast majority in the taxi industry do not trust City politicians or staff to treat them either with the respect their years of service have earned or the fairness expected by all citizens from their government.
Some in the industry simply do not believe Council is sincere in this effort at all. They truly think this move is nothing but smoke and mirrors and political posturing, with nothing positive coming out of it in the end. It is up to the City to prove them wrong.
Finally, we at Taxi News wish all of you a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.