We are now into June and the latest report from Municipal Licensing and Standards on the future of Toronto’s Vehicles For Hire, including taxicabs, is overdue. In light of past practice we are not in the slightest surprised. Deadlines are, at best, moveable targets for City bureaucrats.
In a way, perhaps, this is a good thing as it puts off whatever further bad news for taxis is in the works.
With a couple of exceptions, we have no idea what the bureaucracy will come up with. The most notable exception to this statement is that we have little doubt there will be further onerous and expensive “recommendations” that will further demand individual taxicab drivers and owners will personally have to subsidize accessible transportation in the city.
We also have no doubt other recommendations will deal with City priorities at the deliberate expense of an already pushed to the breaking point taxi business.
We do say this: if the City does not acknowledge the horrendous damage it has already done to each and every one of you by loading more and more costs on you while giving an essentially free ride to the app-based dispatch companies, whatever MLS staff comes up with will only make your already intolerable professional lives even worse.
City staff has repeatedly demonstrated it has utterly no regard for you or the jobs you do, or for the problems it has likely deliberately created in your working lives.
Something like 600 taxi licenses have been placed on MLS shelves to gather dust. There is no work for them on the streets. Owner/drivers of the current fleet of on-demand accessible vehicles are continuing to go broke. It sounded so good that Toronto’s taxis be accessible, but no one at the City had the wit or motivation to actually do anything like a demand survey to determine how many of these vehicles were actually needed, or what level of service was required, or how to balance need with the ability of the operators to earn a living.
A cab driver actually earning anything approaching a decent living? What a horrendous thought! It evidently did not cross the minds of our bureaucrats to consider this aspect of the equation.
Yes, those vehicles and drivers contracted to the TTC’s Wheel-Trans program can and do earn a living, but there are some serious problems with this program for the drivers that the TTC may now be working to alleviate.
We also fully expect MLS to continue to give preferential treatment to the app-based companies at the expense of traditional taxi and limousine services.
We certainly do not expect the City to treat these companies like they treat traditional taxi owners and operators with respect to bylaw enforcement, or enforce insurance requirements, or vehicle identification, or trip logs, or a host of other laws put in place to ensure compliance and customer safety.
The City just might demand all PTC drivers, and taxi and limo drivers, undergo some kind of watered down mandatory training at an outside institution, this in response to the death of a young man in an Uber car last year. But should this happen it will replace a taxi driver training program that was arguably among the best in the world that was killed outright in one of the dumbest moves the City could have taken in the 2016 “reforms.”
We don’t see it likely the City will reinstate rigorous City-run vehicle inspections. It will continue to be happy with the minimal Provincial safety certificates to ensure vehicle roadworthiness, as this will continue to keep the Ubers and Lyfts and others happy. That this directly puts passengers at risk is, obviously, irrelevant to the nice folks at City Hall.
We could go on and on about what we do not expect out of this forthcoming report.
But the bottom line is that unless the City acknowledges it made some horrible and immensely destructive mistakes, and aggressively moves to correct those errors, traditional taxis have a very bleak future ahead.