Mississauga’s special treatment of Uber is ‘even more diabolical’ than Toronto’s, says veteran industry observer
by Mike Beggs
Mississauga taxi industry stakeholders had the chance to voice their opinions of Staff’s line-by-line review of their bylaw on October 31 at a meeting of the Public Vehicle Advisory Committee.
This review is taking place with an eye towards incorporating the controversial Uber ride-sharing service into the bylaw, pending the result of an ongoing 18-month pilot project for such Transportation Network Company (TNC) vehicles.
Staff filed its line-by-line report on bylaw 420-04 last month, as directed by Council in April with the stated intention of, “eliminating or modifying each and every bylaw or resolution to parallel those in the regulations for the pilot project for Uber X.”
In its review, Staff identified more than 60 possible amendments, and suggested enacting a replacement bylaw might be the most advisable way to go -- because in rewriting the existing taxi code, “you would have more amendments than the actual bylaw.”
Cab operators say Uber has cut into their business big time over the past three years, and are calling for the City to protect their interests by ensuring a true level playing field between them and their $70-billion Silicon Valley-based competitor.
Plate owners heavily opposed the City’s issuance of 38 additional taxi plates off the drivers’ waiting list, coinciding with the start of the pilot project in July – noting there are 32 plates on the shelf, and that this runs contrary to the recommendations of outside consultant Dan Hara (who concluded the city presently has sufficient cabs on the road).
Noting that Council’s unanimous decision to issue these 38 additional plates was not challenged by the two councillors who sit on PVAC (which had voted not to issue any new plates), veteran owner Peter Pellier has vowed to stop attending PVAC meetings, after four decades in which he was a regular and valued contributor.
In the August edition of Taxi News, he suggested the situation in Mississauga is “even more diabolical” than in Toronto. He noted that in early 2017, Mississauga Council amended its bylaw to oblige Uber to utilize licensed cabbies and cabs only, “and in the same breath, adopted an 18-month pilot project that has enabled Uber to operate in accordance with its own business plan.”
“I’ve lost total respect for the folks at city hall. Their actions with respect to the taxi industry have been nothing short of unconscionable,” he states.
All-Star Taxi accounts manager Mark Sexsmith suggests Mississauga should reconsider licensing Uber at all, given the company’s scandal-ridden past year, and the fact that a major international city like London recently failed to renew Uber’s license deeming it, “unfit to operate”. (Uber is currently appealing this decision).
“I want them to review the situation in London, and to keep tabs on what’s going on with all the problems Uber is having worldwide with regulatory bodies,” he tells Taxi News.
“It needs to be reevaluated. (Uber’s arrival) has impacted on the taxi industry adversely, and there just seems to be too many problems with the Mississauga program. It’s not giving the public the safe and reliable transportation they’re used to, and it’s going to be an ongoing problem. They should think twice about regulating this company.”
When asked about regulating Uber given its heavily checkered history, Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey responded, “Well we’re (looking at regulating ridesharing technology, in general).”
Sexsmith suggests reducing the restrictions on taxi driver training, vehicles, and safety measures to meet Uber’s demands amounts to a race to the bottom.
“If you cut corners, at some point it’s going to be counter-productive in terms of the standards of service and safety,” he adds.
In an October 18 letter to the City, All-Star Taxi president Gurinder Pannu issued a response to Staff’s line-by-line review of the bylaw.
He recommends that:
No driver should be using a cell phone, unless it’s directly related to the fare he is engaged with. “There is no ‘safe operation’ of any vehicle when the driver has a cell phone in his hand,” he says.
The plate issuance formula be reviewed and the rules for taxi plate issuance be codified in the bylaw, to preclude random plate issuances outside of the parameters of the formula.
Putting plates on the shelf for an indefinite period of time, and at minimal fees to the plate owner.
“The current oversupply of taxi plates has resulted in an unprecedented number of plates on the shelf, and this situation is a direct result of an oversupply of for hire vehicles created by the (proposed) legalization of the TNC fleet,” he observes.