To the editor,
(Editor’s note: This letter comes from an email exchange in which veteran industry observer Gerry Manley speculated that Uber might never have gained a foothold in the city if Toronto taxi brokers had taken a more proactive approach to developing a consumer friendly dispatching app.)
Let’s assume the brokerages possessed the wherewithal back then to cut Uber off at the proverbial pass by introducing an effective app, thereby nullifying any need for so-called ridesharing companies.
It begs the question, would someone like Travis Kalanick have gone down a different path, or would he have pursued his interest in making millions, possibly billions, in ground transportation, knowing full well that the real payoff comes when autonomous cars are introduced?
Say what you will about Kalanick’s lack of ethics, the man raised billions, knowing full well his long-term vision – one certainly not on the brokerages’ radar scope – was to be a front-runner in the development of self-driving technology.
It goes without saying, the brokerages want no part of this, seeing as their revenue is derived from dues paying operators. Suffice to say, in their absence, taxi dispatching services will find themselves in a bit of a pickle, to say the least.
Digital technology is changing every facet of our lives at an alarming pace. The taxi industry as we have known it for decades is about to be totally transformed, as is car ownership itself. No level of government on the planet is capable of stopping the inevitable, no matter how committed to the public good.
We’ve had a good ride, Gerry, but like with all rides, it’s about to come to an end.
Peter D. Pellier
To the editor,
I noted in the December edition of Taxi News that someone named Baumber has installed a dash camera in addition to his bylaw mandated in-car camera. This is a violation of the bylaw and potentially breaches the confidentiality of the consumer. Access to any image taken by the mandated in-car cameras can only be legally downloaded by police services, in part, to protect the confidentiality of the consumer. Mr. Baumber’s dash cam has the ability to download images on to a driver’s personal cell phone and that is a serious potential breach of our customers’ right to privacy.
This needs to be nipped in the bud before our entire in-car camera security program becomes tainted with other drivers doing the same. Leave the in-car camera image downloads to the police service, not to the discretion of any vehicles-for-hire driver.
To the editor,
Toronto’s taxi industry membership is beginning to wake up to the fact that there will never be a fair and equitable political and/or bureaucratic resolution to their many outstanding issues with the City which has forced them to the brink of financial ruin.
I believe the industry’s best chance of winning any satisfactory resolution is in the courts.
As someone with a long history in this business I have received numerous enquiries about what the industry can do to recoup at least some of the financial losses they have incurred because of the actions of the City and the Province surrounding Private Transportation Companies (PTC’s).
One of the most asked question is about the number of vehicles eating from the same Vehicles-for-Hire pie, and I believe this issue should comprise one of the cornerstones of any civil action launched against the City and other parties.
In years past, the City used a license issuing formula to issue taxicab owners’ licences, which was predicated on studies of market factors such as the number of calls received and serviced during an average 24-hour period, holiday traffic, conventions, major events etc., just to name a few, balanced against the need of taxicab industry members to earn a fair and reasonable living.
After many studies, it was determined that Toronto would use an issuing formula of one taxi for ever 850 citizens, which met the requirements of consumer need by including perhaps too many taxicabs on any given day, while falling somewhat short during periods of high service demand. This provided overall a tolerable service level, with a reasonable opportunity for our members to earn a living and support themselves and their families.
With Toronto’s population of today being approximately 2,700,000, according to 2016 federal population statistics, if you applied the 1-850 issuing formula, the City requires 3,176 taxicabs. Unfortunately, a few years ago the City decided to change the formula, deciding an “indicator model” would be more useful. The indicator model used passenger statistics from airplanes, trains and buses and other factors such as conventions, special events etc. to set the number of taxicabs.
The shortcoming of an indicator model is that the City cannot possibly know how many consumers from those areas would require taxicab service and the industry membership had no other evidence to show what numbers were needed either, other than continually showing their incomes were going down week by week. With the indictor model in place, the City went up to about 5,500 taxicabs owners’ licences, which was 2,324 more licenced taxicabs than a responsible licensing formula would indicate in today’s marketplace.
It is my opinion that the City went to the indicator model mainly for two reasons. Number one was to make more license issuing revenues and the second was to address the complaints of some cab drivers that it was hard to acquire plate and they wanted no part of paying an open market value to purchase the licence.
This is the essential history surrounding taxicab owners’ licencing, so let’s come to the present-day fiasco of the City’s licensing regulation. Keeping in mind I do not have access to the exact figures, you can be reasonably sure that they are very close.
Presently, the City of Toronto has issued licences to the following: 50,000-plus Private Transportation Company licences; 5,500 taxicab owners’ licences, 1,200 livery licences and approximately 750 Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) taxicabs and liveries, who are allowed to pick up in the City without paying City licensing fees. These numbers do not include some several hundred illegal and unlicensed vehicles picking up in the City daily.
Just the licensed vehicles under this new regime add up to 57,450 operators trying to eat from the same pie!
If you do a per capita license issuing formula on these numbers, you will find 2,700,000 residents divided by 57,450 Vehicles-for-Hire, you end up with licensing ratio of one vehicle for ever 47 citizens, a patently outrageous state of affairs. In fact, if anyone at city hall bothered to study these numbers in any detail at all, they would most likely find there are dozens and dozens of vehicles available for every single consumer requiring Vehicle-for-Hire servicing.
So, the question I would ask of the City, and I am sure a judge would be curious to have answered, is how can you explain the number of vehicles you have licensed? How do these outrageous numbers fit indicator model that you claim balances consumer need and the ability for a taxicab driver to earn a living?
Of course, there is no logical explanation, the City is in violation of its own license issuing indicator model and, further, this was done without providing reasonable notice it was planning to completely change the landscape of the taxicab industry and without any offer of compensation. I believe there is a strong case to be made that the City abused its regulatory responsibilities in licensing the vehicle-for-hire industry. Based on this and other statute conflicts and violations we could produce, I believe there is good reason to hope for a successful outcome in the courts.
Gerald H. Manley
To the editor,
Thank you for your ongoing support of the taxi industry in Toronto, through the publication of your monthly newspaper Taxi News.
These past two years I have read Taxi News as a resource, an insightful look at the ground transportation industry and the conditions under which taxi workers operate in one of the greatest cities on earth, Toronto Canada.
In the December 2017 edition of Taxi News, I was particularly struck by the lamentations of industry members from all walks of life, at the failure of political governance and municipal administration, to address the inherent imbalances posed by a Vehicle for Hire regulatory system that is in clear contravention of Charter principles, of equality and fundamental justice.
Today’s decision by the European Court of Justice, that Uber must be regulated like traditional taxis, confirms that taxi workers in Toronto have a reasonable expectation to have Uber drivers adhere to the same rules and regulations that the traditional taxi industry members have adhered to as per municipal regulation and all important public and worker safety.
Lamentations will only take you so far taxi workers. Our Courts and Tribunals are an evidence-based system. Without industry members gathering their evidence and banding together to go forward into the legal arena, nothing will change at Toronto City Hall, due to implicit bias against Toronto taxi workers.
Best regards to all for a safe and Happy Holiday season.
To the editor,
The day the City of Toronto, along with other GTHA municipalities, licensed Uber, any hope of showing them the door evaporated.
It matters not a fig what unfolds in jurisdictions around the world, in our neck-of-the-woods, the company we love to hate is here to stay. It is most unlikely the pooh-bahs at City Hall will impose stiffer regulations on Uber, certainly not when they are bent on deregulating the traditional taxi industry.
Though a hackneyed cliché, it is highly applicable here: Follow the money. Why would the City undertake any action that disrupts the flow of revenue into its coffers from Uber?
Peter D. Pellier