Long awaited MLS review proposes relief for accessible operators, at expense of desperate VFH industry and its customers– and that’s just one idea…
by John Q. Duffy
If recommended changes to the City’s Vehicle-for-Hire Bylaw are passed by City council, all taxi, limousine and Private Transportation Company drivers will have to pass a re-established, City-approved, training course.
As well, a new fund paid for by licensing fees in the case of taxis and limos or an additional 10 cents a ride charge for PTC trips, is expected to raise just under $5 million a year to be used to subsidize existing accessible operators and, the City hopes, additional accessible service for the disabled.
Disbursement of money from this new fund is to be based on service standards based on data collected by Municipal Licensing and Standards, and on eligibility based on standards set by MLS.
This long awaited and wide-ranging report on future City plans for the VFH industries licensed by the City was presented to the General Government & Licensing Committee on Monday, June 24, 2019.
As expected, the principal focus of the report was on improving accessible transportation in the City including establishment of an Accessibility Fund Program, but issues surrounding driver training, updating the City’s limousine regulations, driver and passenger safety including a discussion of cameras in taxis and PTC cars and other areas of City and taxi industry concern were also addressed.
On the other hand, some concerns raised by Toronto’s taxi industry were either glossed over or ignored in this report.
For example, there is no mention of capping the number of PTC vehicles and drivers licensed by the City.
However this question did come up a number of times in deputations at the June GG&L meeting.
The taxi industry has for years complained that allowing unlimited access to the market by PTCs has severely cut into available business for taxi drivers.
This unfettered access has also devalued plate values, where owners either waited for decades to be issued a license expecting it to be their retirement income through leasing it out or they paid hundreds of thousand of dollars for one on the open market, with full approval of the City.
Among the 79 recommendations contained in this report are changes in the City’s laws governing limousines that have been long-asked for by limo operators to give them more flexibility in the provision of customer service.
Mandatory cameras in taxis and limos are also to be retained, but will be optional for PTC vehicles. Existing rules for these cameras are to be loosened to allow for greater choice for operators.
An increase in the number of years of driving experience to get a VFH license is recommended.
MLS also wants the authority to audit and investigate the records of PTCs as well as limo and taxi brokers to ensure compliance with the law and “for researching and undertaking accessibility reviews, transportation planning and environmental policies or initiatives relevant to (the industry).”
Police would be able to get these records within 24 hours and MLS inspectors within 30 days. There is no mention in this report of any need for a court-approved warrant to get this information.
PTC, taxi and limousine companies will have to report all collisions, including incident information, type of vehicles, date, time and location to MLS by an as yet undetermined deadline.
PTC drivers will have to take a mandatory driver training program approved by MLS, including all drivers providing accessible service.
As well, all telephones and other such devices must be mounted in the vehicles, drivers must be civil and well-behaved, if a camera is installed in PTC cars passengers must be able to see a written notice of this fact, PTC vehicles must have written notices saying “Watch for Bikes” warning passengers to look out for cyclists to reduce dooring incidents, vehicle fuel types must be submitted to MLS, PTC cars may not have similar paint jobs as taxi companies, drivers must carry government issued identification, all information on time and length of trips (to the nearest minute) is to be recorded, including passenger wait times, numbers of and reasons for cancelled or rejected trips, numbers of vehicles available for service at any given time, plus pick up and drop off data and anonymous trip and passenger information.
The minimum age to be licensed is no longer to be 18 years old, but drivers must have Ontario records showing three years driving experience in the province (with existing PTC drivers grandfathered).
The Passenger Bill of Rights is to be amended to prohibit service refusal to people with disabilities or those with a service animal.
Snow tires will be renamed to “winter tires” which meet specifications that include tires labeled “M” and “S”, “the minimum requirement for mud and snow all season tires.” (This proposal apparently ignores the provincial definition for snow tires specified in the Highway Traffic Act.)
Taxicab brokers must record trip data including pick up location and destination, dates and times for trip start and end, time from service request to the start of each trip, type of service provided (e.g. accessible) trip status (completed, driver or passenger cancelled) and the reason for action, the taxi license number.
As well, brokers must record the driver license number, unique ID number, the driver’s first and last name, and information about each driver terminated by the company.
Taxicab owners must register a vehicle with MLS as a condition of license renewal and bylaw provisions about Designated Agents will be removed “to clarify the role of taxicab operator and ensure the only individuals permitted to manage taxicab on behalf of taxicab owners will be licensed as taxicab operators.”
Like PTCs, taxis must display “Watch for Bikes” notices.
Taxi drivers and owners must offer flat rates to the airport, not just “on request.”
Taxis may not set higher rates than the metered rate for accessible service.
The Toronto Licensing Tribunal will get explicit power to refuse to issue a license.
New provisions in the bylaw will require phones and other devices to be securely mounted in the vehicle and must carry approved ID.
A section in the existing bylaw prohibiting parking on any highway other than on a designated cab stand is to be removed as it is already covered in the City traffic bylaw and the word “first” will be removed in the section on taxis refusing service to “confirm that short-fare refusals are not permitted.”
The minimum age requirement of 18 years is to be removed but new applicants must have at least three years Ontario driving experience and all new applicants and license holder renewals must provide proof of completion of a driver training course approved by the City.
People now classified as Designated Agents will be renamed as Taxicab Operators and will have to be licensed.
A section of the bylaw requiring drivers to be “properly dressed neat and clean” is to be removed but the part about “civil and well-behaved” will stay.
Operator logs will now also have to include break time start date and time and end, and taxi type, such as accessible or non-accessible.
Definitions of alternate fuel vehicles, combined fuel and hybrid vehicle and low emission vehicle will be removed as will the requirement that replacement vehicles be either accessible or alternative fuel, hybrid and low emission vehicles.
New vehicles must be inspected before put into service and thereafter every 12 months.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation will be asked to amend its collision reporting form to include whether the vehicle(s) involved in an incident are taxi, limo or PTC.
A new fee schedule is also proposed, as is establishment of a new “Vehicle-For-Hire Reserve Fund” to be a “Corporate Discretionary Reserve Fund” which will “provide funding for initiatives associated with accessibility, transportation planning, or environmental goals” relevant to the VFH industries and to minimize the impact of reliance on vehicle-for-hire licensing revenue for the MLS Operating budget.
Initially this fund will be just over $6 million and in years to come its minimum balance will be set at $5 million.
The money will come from a hike in VFH and PTC fees paid by non-accessible drivers and owners. Those providing accessible service will be exempt from the extra fees.
Taxi and limousine brokerages will pay an extra $250.64. Limo owners will pay an extra $125.32. PTCs will pay an extra 10 cents per trip, PTC drivers will pay an extra $7.23.
Taxicab owners and operators will pay $125.32, and VFH drivers will pay an extra $62.66.
VFH licensing fees will be: Taxicab Operator, new application $500, Operator Renewal $300. PTC new applications will be charged $20,000 and the fee per driver will be $15. PTCs will pay the City 30 cents per trip, (plus the extra 10 cents for the Reserve Fund.) The application and renewal fees for VFH drivers will be $130.
After hearing 25 deputations and committee comment and debate, a Motion to send the report back to MLS for further work from Councillor Jim Karygiannis lost. The motion by GG&L chair Paul Ainslie carried.
Staff was directed to bring to the July 16 & 17 Council meeting a report on: the feasibility and implications of implementing third-party safety training, including options for using accredited training schools, in-class/car training, and other ways to deliver mandated training; opportunities to ensure higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards for vehicles-for-hire, including transitioning to hybrid vehicles or fully-electric vehicles for all vehicles-for-hire; the impact of vehicles-for-hire on traffic congestion and opportunities to mitigate this impact; specific requirements for mobile device holders in vehicles in order to ensure they are mounted securely; requiring stickers cautioning passengers to watch for cyclists when opening doors; the feasibility of continuing the requirement that replacement vehicles for taxicab owners be alternative fuel vehicles, hybrid vehicles, or low-emission vehicles and enact a new definition for low-emission vehicles and authorize a definition of a low-emission vehicle in accordance with Natural Resources Canada’s Fuel Consumption Ratings; examine the implications and feasibility of requiring private transportation companies, through their software applications or otherwise, to route private transportation company drivers and passengers to pick up and drop off locations where passengers can embark or disembark without the private transportation company vehicle stopping or otherwise obstructing bike lanes; get more information on the difference between snow, winter, all-season, all-weather, and mud tires and details on industry and insurance standards; and requiring private transportation company drivers to notify their personal insurance companies that they are operating their vehicles for a private transportation company and requiring private transportation company drivers to provide proof of insurance to MLS.
This was then amended by a Motion from Councillor John Filion that staff annually study appropriate wait time standards for accessible private transportation companies and vehicles-for-hire, together with a method of monitoring whether this standard is being achieved, and what additional measures might be needed to achieve the standards and establish methods to monitor: a) the number of private transportation company vehicles on the City of Toronto’s roads during selected time periods; and b) the percentage of private transportation company vehicles on the road with and without passengers during selected time periods. This carried.
The report, with amendments and clarifications or further analysis ordered by the committee will come before the July 16 and 17 meeting of Toronto City Council.