No relief in store for ailing taxi industry as City opts to tinker around the edges of disastrous 2016 VFH Bylaw
By John Q. Duffy
The latest round of amendments to Toronto’s Vehicle For Hire bylaws contain very little immediate relief for taxi drivers.
Reinstitution of some form of driver training for all vehicle for hire drivers will likely have some kind of impact on Private Transportation Companies, however.
About 90,000 drivers now registered as working for PTCs, as well as about 10,000 licensed taxicab drivers, will have to undergo some form of “third party” or outside the company training, as yet to be determined by City staff.
Proof of training will have to be shown to regulators by the end of 2020.
As well, PTC drivers must now have three years driving experience, not just one year as previously required.
Both Uber and Lyft have stated they will cooperate with the City’s new rules.
The death of a young man in an Uber vehicle in 2018 operated by a new, untrained driver who did not know the City received national media attention, and the lobbying efforts of the man’s mother, essentially forced the City to revisit the question of driver training over PTC objections.
In addition, a number of physical and sexual assaults by PTC drivers in the Greater Toronto Area have caused public concern over passenger safety in these vehicles. As well there is a perception that service levels have declined across the industry since abolition of the three-week City-run taxicab driver training course.
At its meeting of July 16, 17 and 18, 2019, Council debated and passed some 72 recommendations affecting VFHs, including limousines.
A motion brought by Councillor Gord Perks to ban PTCs from operating in Toronto lost decisively.
As expected, much attention was paid to transporting the disabled, including the creation of an Accessibility Fund Program paid for entirely by VFH fees and levies imposed on those who do not already provide wheelchair accessible service.
The money collected in this fund will be paid to those providing accessible service, based on criteria set by Municipal Licensing and Standards.
This fund was created in response to the well-publicized financial hardship of current TTL service providers not affiliated with the Toronto Transit commission’s WheelTrans service. The $60,000 plus cost of the accessible vehicles, higher insurance and maintenance costs and lack of able-bodied public acceptance of the vehicles have all contributed to extreme financial hardship for these licensees.
To fund this program, taxi and limousine brokerages will pay an extra $250.64 per year, non-accessible taxi owners and limo owners will pay an extra $125.32 per year, and all VFH drivers will pay an extra $62.66 a year.
PTC companies will pay an extra .10 per trip and PTC drivers an extra $7.23 a year fee.
The new regular fee schedule was also passed.
New applications for taxi operators will cost $500 and renewals will cost $300. A new application for PTC companies will cost $20,000, the fee per drivers in PTCs is $15 per year, PTCs pay the City .30 per trip, and the application and renewal fees for VFH drivers is $130 per year.
As well, MLS will set up for 2019 a new $6.093 million “Corporate Discretionary Reserve Fund” to fund “initiatives associated with accessibility, transportation planning, or environmental goals relevant to the vehicle-for-hire and private transportation company industries” and to “minimize” overall MLS revenue stream variations. For future years this fund will have a minimum balance of $5 million.
Other changes include deleting the definition of camera in the bylaw and MLS will establish criteria for and prohibit the use of cameras in licensed vehicles. Cameras will not necessarily be prohibited in taxis and PTC vehicles, but with changes in technology, they may not be made mandatory, and vehicle operators may have greater camera choice.
Since cameras were made mandatory in all taxis, the incidence of serious crimes committed against, and by, taxicab drivers has been hugely reduced.
MLS will start actively monitoring all collisions involving taxis, limo and PTC affiliated vehicles, by requiring companies to “record and provide collision incident information (including type of vehicle, date and time of incident, and location of incident to the nearest intersection)” on a regular basis.
MLS will also now collect and submit detailed trip data for all VFHs “that includes: the date, time, location of pick up and drop off, wait time, and occupancy of each trip; cancellation data including the time the trip was requested, time it was cancelled, and reason for cancellation; and aggregate data on the volume of trips at the street level for particular dates, time periods, and locations, when requested by the City; this data and other data required to be provided by private transportation companies, taxicab brokers, and limousine brokers shall be used by the City to facilitate transportation planning studies, including the assessment of congestion and location impacts.”
All private transportation company drivers must ensure they are using a mounted device, secured to the vehicle, for their phone or other such electronic device when they are available on the PTC app.
PTCs must confirm that drivers who provide accessible service for private transportation companies are licensed and meet all licensing conditions, including the “successful completion of an accessible training program.”
Now it is official that every PTC driver must be “civil and well-behaved” passengers must be notified by a written notice if a camera or other such device is installed in the vehicle and “Watch for Bike” notices also affixed to vehicle interiors.
It is now confirmed that MLS inspection powers extend to all vehicles for hire.
MLS must be notified of the fuel types of all PTC-affiliated vehicles and these vehicles must not have similar color schemes to licensed taxicabs.
Accessible service by PTCs must be in approved vehicles.
Taxicab drivers “cannot refuse service to an individual with a mobility or non-mobility disability, where service can be accommodated, and cannot refuse service to an individual being accompanied by a service animal by reason only of the presence of a service animal.”
Some limousine rules have changed but others recommended by staff and by the General Government and Licensing Committee were deleted from the final bylaw due to a motion brought by Councillor Paul Ainslie.
The changes include: Limousine owner licensing fees are waived for accessible limousine owners; accessible service must be provided in approved vehicles; passengers must be notified if a camera in the vehicle is able to record audio or video footage of the passenger by a in-car sticker, “Watch for Bike” notices must be placed in approved places in vehicles; remove service agreements and limousine owners who dispatch his or her own limousine will not be considered a limousine broker.
Limousine Brokers have new data recording and reporting rules and this information must be produced on request within 30 days.
For taxis, a provision is added to require that a vehicle be registered with Municipal Licensing and Standards for use as a taxicab as a condition of renewing a taxicab owner licence and amend the section on designated custodians for corporations that hold standard taxicab owner licences to require that they designate a director as custodian, instead of an employee or officer.
Further amendments rename “snow tires” to “winter tires” and add a definition of winter tires to mean “a tire that is marked with the pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake, as they have met specific snow traction performance requirements and have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions as noted by Transport Canada.”
Provisions regarding designated agents are deleted “in order to clarify the role of a taxicab operator and ensure that the only individuals permitted to manage taxicabs on behalf of taxicab owners will be licensed as taxicab operators.”
“Watch for Bike” notices must be posted in taxis.
Taxis must offer flat rates to the airport whether requested or not. Vehicle-for-hire drivers, taxicab owners, and brokers may not charge more than the approved tariff for accessible service requests.
A specific amendment confirms the Toronto Licensing Tribunal has the power to refuse to issue a licence.
All vehicle-for-hire drivers shall carry and, upon request, produce satisfactory government-issued identification to MLS inspectors.
A provision that bars VFH drivers from parking on any highway except at a location designated and marked as a taxicab stand by an authorized sign is deleted as another City bylaw covers this offense.
Remove the word “first” from the restrictions on taxicabs refusing services in order to confirm that short-fare refusals are not permitted for any prospective passengers.
VFH driver requirements are changed to: remove the minimum requirement of 18 years of age; increase the year of driving history from one year to three years for new applicants and grandfather existing vehicle-for-hire driver’s licence holders; require that all new applicants as of June 1, 2020 must provide proof of the successful completion of a mandatory training program; and require existing vehicle-for-hire driver’s licence holders to provide proof of the successful completion of a mandatory training by their licensing renewal in 2020.
Remove the requirements that VFH drivers be “properly dressed, neat and clean in person,” and maintain that drivers shall be civil and well-behaved.
Operator logs must contain break start date and time, break end date and time, and taxicab type such as non-accessible or accessible.
Remove the definitions for alternative fuel vehicle, combined fuel consumption rating, exhaust emissions, full useful life emission bin, hybrid vehicle, and low-emission vehicle, remove the requirement for replacement taxicab vehicles to be either accessible or alternative fuel, hybrid, or low-emission vehicles and require all vehicles-for-hire are inspected prior to delivering for-hire service with a new vehicle and, thereafter, once every 12 months.
The changes also include environmental initiatives that endorse the goal that “by 2050, 100 percent of vehicles-for-hire will use low-carbon energy. This confirms TransformTO’s goal that all vehicles, including vehicles-for-hire, will use low-carbon energy.”
MLS must report by the fourth quarter of 2020 “on an emissions reduction incentive program and low-emission standards and targets for the entire vehicle-for-hire industry, in keeping with the Transform TO Climate Action Strategy transportation goals, including consideration of the adoption of Natural Resources Canada’s Combined Fuel Consumption Ratings, and to consult with the Environment and Energy Division, Toronto Atmospheric Fund and relevant stakeholders.”
MLS must review and provide a status update on the vehicle-for-hire Accessibility Fund Program and work completed to create an environmental incentive program two years after the enactment of this By-law.
MLS must report back by the third quarter of 2020 on the findings of the safety data collected by the City or provided by private transportation companies and the flexibility of requiring additional safety requirements for all vehicles for hire, and a further review of the following: an increased number of mandatory inspections; a requirement that all vehicles be equipped with in-car cameras and emergency lighting systems; restrictions on the maximum number of hours that drivers can work in a given 24 hour period; the feasibility of using the vehicle for hire software platforms to restrict pickup and drop off locations in “no stopping” areas; the feasibility of other safety measures to reduce the risk of dooring incidents such as rear-view passenger side mirrors; fees for all licence and driver categories, with options for full cost recovery and harmonization of licences across fee categories; and the performance of the Accessibility Fund Program.
Council also wants data on “whether the number of vehicles for hire on the road currently have a significant impact on congestion, and whether measures are required to mitigate congestion, as well as determining the appropriate number of vehicles for hire and its impacts on the City.”
MLS must establish a system to allow all vehicle-for-hire owners, operators and drivers to submit vehicle registrations and fees electronically.
These changes come into force on January 1, 2020.