Industry advocate battles wrongful No Stopping tickets for taxi drivers
by Mike Beggs
Toronto taxi drivers are still being wrongfully ticketed $150 for “No Stopping During Rush Hour”, more than three years after Mayor John Tory first implemented his Zero Tolerance policy for parking in rush hour routes.
But veteran owner/operator Gerry Manley’s efforts to get this issue fixed may finally be finding some traction.
Manley first took this up in 2015, and was assured that all Toronto Police Services, and Parking Control divisions would be sent an inner departmental memo that would bring some resolution to this issue. But with drivers still routinely being slapped erroneously, or simply mailed, this $150 ticket, he recently escalated his complaint to the Independent Police Review Director, who forwarded it to the OIPRO liaison for the Toronto Police Service Professional Standards.
It finally wound up on the desk of Det. Domenico Bruzzese, Unit Complaint Coordinator for Parking Control, who sent him a May 14 e-mail stating, “I will be meeting with my Unit Commander and my second level supervisor tomorrow to discuss this issue, and come up with a resolution as to how we can mutually resolve this matter.”
At press time, Manley was still awaiting an update.
The amended Parking Bylaw, in Chapter 950-405 states, “No stopping during rush hour times…this subsection shall not be deemed to prohibit a taxicab, or limousine from stopping while actually engaged in loading or unloading passengers on any highway.”
“Where the confusion is arising from for some of our members is, to avoid being ticketed, your fare must be immediately getting out of the taxi or at the curb waiting to get into it,” he explains. “The bylaw doesn’t allow you to say, ‘I am waiting for a fare’ during the rush hour times. So you either have to inform your fare to be at the curb exactly at the pickup time, or circle the block until they arrive, or you will be ticketed.
But he suggests few cab drivers know what’s required of them under the bylaw and Highway Traffic Act, even though it’s all online.
“Our drivers don’t know the parameters of the sections. That’s where they’re getting themselves into problems,” he adds. “Why do you think you should get special privileges as a cab driver? Abide by the regulations.”
Also actively fighting for justice on this issue, the iTaxiworkers Association maintains these tickets are being generated under false pretenses, while taxi drivers are performing their lawful duties under the regulations of Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards. They allege it amounts to a “cash grab”, on the part of the City.
“The guys are actually engaged in unloading and loading of passengers and should be exempted. But they’re not being exempted,” says IW secretary Patricia Reilly. “I recently did Tribunals as well, and found the people who are adjudicating the new Tribunal really don’t know this area of the bylaw.”
“It’s pretty sad. It’s a $150 ticket, and that could amount to a driver’s whole day’s wage.”
She has dealt with dozens of these parking tickets as a courtesy to drivers, and alleges it’s “an abuse of power”, and an example of, “white privilege.”
“Under King John of Toronto, there’s too much robbin’ in the hood,” she alleges.
“It’s like the City is chancing it.”
Taxi Action president Behrouz Khamseh, likewise, has heard from various drivers, and, “they’re getting tickets left and right”. (There have been many industry complaints about the alleged serial ticketing of cabbies, down through the years).
Khamseh cites the example of one driver, who received over $1,000 in tickets on College Street for such violations as No Emergency Flashing Lights, and no signs posted pertaining to “No Smoking”, and “Watch For Bikes When Opening Your Door”.
“They put (that latter) sign up for passengers to be more careful when they open the door. Does that apply to Uber?” he asks. “They’re supposed to be equal to us.
“I think there‘s a culture where, when the City is under pressure financially, they use that to increase fines. I’ve been on the road for 31 years, and this has been going on for a long time,” he continues. “(But) what’s the purpose of giving tickets to punish people? I remember when a parking ticket used to be $10, or $20. Now a single parking ticket is $60, or $150. That’s a lot.”
On the road since 2005, driver Ali Ahsan recently contacted Taxi News to help resolve an almost unfathomable ticket he received, stressing that, “These days the taxi business is facing many challenges, and it’s very difficult for drivers to meet their expenses.”
“As is my everyday routine, I was waiting for a fare on a taxi stand at 393 University Ave. for a long time,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I got a parking ticket. My question is, as taxi drivers how long do we suffer under this abusive power?”
According to long-time owner Andy Reti, this all reflects on how taxi drivers have always been looked on by the authorities.
“I recall a Traffic Court Judge saying years ago, ‘Taxi drivers have no rights,’” he relates.
Back three decades or so, he recalls, “We had more inspectors after us than cops.” But that was before it hit the news that two Toronto police officers were earning in excess of $100,000 per year from all of their court appearances relating to tickets.
“Until those two discovered there was money to be made here, the Police were not so heavily involved,” he adds. “(It’s a case of), follow the money.”
Peter’s Taxi owner Peter Mandronis agrees this represents a cash cow for the City, “because cab drivers don’t know the bylaw that well, and the policemen they find a way to reach their quotas.”
According to Khamseh, much ticketing is now going on outside the Royal York Hotel on Front Street, where the six-space taxi stand has been removed with the completion of the construction. Upon speaking to the councillor involved, he was told the Royal York’s management didn’t want taxis in front of their hotel anymore.
“Do the streets belong to the public, or to the establishments?” he asks. “Do you put in a cab stand because a business asks for it, or does the City put in stands where they think it’s needed?”
Manley maintains the City’s cycling lanes are also having a “dramatic negative effect” on how Police deal with motorists, especially cab drivers. He says many cabbies have been ticketed for Obstructing A Bicycle Lane, if they pull over to the curb where one of these lanes exists to let out or pick up a passenger.
He stresses that bicycles are defined as vehicles, and mandated to follow the rules of the road the same as any other vehicle.
“And if Police Services was more diligent in the execution of their duties, they would observe cyclists routinely breach the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and municipal bylaws when they operate – for instance by riding a bicycle on the sidewalks. Yet, they are rarely ticketed,” he adds.
He says the most annoying point of all this is, when a taxi driver informs an officer that he or she is, in fact, not violating any laws, “The response they inevitably receive is, ‘If you don’t like it, then go to court.’
“It is unfair for the taxicab driver to have to go to court and lose a day of work to answer to a charge that should not have been laid in the first place,” he comments.
If they do receive such a bogus ticket, he advises drivers to go to the division of the officer who issued the ticket (which is listed on the ticket), and request to lay a citizen’s complaint against the officer.
He notes that, while cabbies are getting tickets from police officers and parking control officers, “In the case of parking tickets, there is no more court and you have to talk to somebody online about your defense.
“Now you can’t go to a police division, or ticketing office to complain. You’re almost in their hands,” he observes.
“The reason we’re getting nailed so much is, there’s 50,000 Ubers (out there) and how many are identified? So, we’re simple and easy targets,” he continues.
“But it has been going on since I’ve been in the industry -- 45 years. It’s because we’re easy targets. We’re easily identifiable and easy to pull over. We’re subject to more tickets, because we come into more statutes than the regular drivers on the road.”
He hopes TPS can come up with an agreeable solution, which will eliminate the requirement for taxi drivers to appear in court after being illegally ticketed. With the assistance of Det. Bruzzese, he hopes to initiate a process where they can instead attend the division where the officer works from to have the ticket taken back.
And he will ask that taxi drivers be granted a brief grace period when doing pickups and drop-offs.
“Knowing that a perfect world does not exist, and not every time will the customer be at the curb at exactly the time the taxi was ordered, we are asking the Toronto Police Service officers and the Parking Control officers to use a bit of discretion before ticketing a taxi waiting for a fare during the rush hour periods,” he adds.