Turning the corner
So, MLS executive director Tracey Cook has reportedly “turned the corner” on the vexing vehicle-for-hire file. Apparently her long-overdue review of the City’s efforts to “level the playing field” can wait.
Ask any traditional taxicab driver or operator if the latest round of so-called taxi regulatory “reforms” did anything close to creating a level playing field between taxis and Private Transportation Companies like Uber and Lyft and you will be lucky to get a derisory laugh.
More likely the response will be an angry diatribe against the deliberate institutional bias in favor of the PTCs created by City Councils across the GTA. Taxi people at all industry levels feel utterly betrayed and abandoned by our politicians and bureaucrats after decades of dutifully obeying every restrictive bylaw imaginable and paying every outrageous fee cities could devise.
There are strict age and model restrictions on cars that can be used as taxis while there are few restrictions on cars than can operate under the Uber X platform. Taxis must be prominently identifiable, and while Uber cars are supposed to have ID stickers on them, few do, as enforcement is zero. Bylaws continue to be strictly enforced against taxis while apparently Uber drivers can do pretty much as they wish without consequences.
Perhaps the most outrageous outcome of the reforms is that the public has been deliberately or inadvertently placed at horrendous risk. Cars are no longer inspected for mechanical fitness by the City, and we are starting to see the junk boxes of old serving the public.
In-car cameras are no longer mandatory despite more than a decade of incontrovertible evidence they are the best practical protection for both passengers and drivers. Taxi drivers still must submit police background checks while Uber drivers are ostensibly vetted by the company through a third party, non-police operated process. As far as we know there have been at least nine cases where Uber drivers in the GTA have been charged with sexually assaulting female passengers over the past four years, so we can see how well that is working. Quick warning to all women using PTCs these days: do so at your own risk, because apparently no one at the City gives a damn about your safety. It is PTC drivers committing the assaults so apparently it is quite all right. (City: you don’t like this comment? Prove us wrong.) The City can’t even get bylaw charges filed years ago against allegedly illegally operating Uber cars and drivers before a Justice of the Peace. Is this incompetence or deliberately letting enforcement slide to give Uber preferential treatment before the law? You readers decide for yourselves.
This month Taxi News details the horror story of one veteran cab driver who has lost many thousands of dollars due to falling afoul of ill-considered City-imposed vehicle restrictions. Does anyone at the City give a hoot? Not a chance. He isn’t Uber affiliated so the City doesn’t care.
Now we get correspondence that a Mississauga cab company can’t compete for a contract because the passengers have to be picked up in different jurisdictions, while Uber and Lyft have no such restrictions. Even Toronto’s International Film Festival regularly bypasses Toronto’s licensed taxi businesses in favor of out of town businesses that can provide the vehicles and services Toronto’s licensed businesses cannot legally provide. This is what politicians call a “level playing field.”
Further, don’t hold your breath waiting for the long overdue report on the effects of the “reforms” Municipal Licensing and Standards was ordered to produce by Council. We can expect something in the Spring, maybe, sort of, cross your fingers. The priority on this is somewhere below Toronto taxpayers repairing the Great Wall of China.
Here is a thought. There is serious discussion about creating a regional, seamless transportation authority, a “Superlinx” we’ve heard it called. Perhaps the idea could be expanded to create a single regional licensed taxi/PTC transportation authority encompassing taxis, limousines and PTCs. We doubt if it would or could be worse than what taxis deal with now.
Another route might be for taxi people to simply bypass municipal regulation entirely and get Provincial Vehicle licenses. Many Toronto cabs (TTLs) already have accessible vehicles. They could legally thumb their noses at Toronto’s laws and fees. Just a thought to