VFH Bylaw’s complicated tariff provisions weigh heavily in PTC’s favour
by Mike Beggs
(Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in Taxi News’s series on veteran industry observer Gerry Manley’s monthly letters addressing the many flaws and outright failures inherent in the City of Toronto’s calamitous 2016 Vehicle-For-Hire Bylaw. Readers interested in reading the Manley letter discussed in this article will find it posted here.)
In this month’s letter, Gerry Manley zeroes in on the contentious provisions for “Altering Taxi Tariffs” under the new VFH Bylaw.
During the three years when Uber was allowed to operate outside of the law (outside of any regulations, and unaccountable to the City or the courts), one of the taxi operators’ biggest complaints was Uber’s ability to raise and lower the tariff at will, while they were bound by the Chapter 545 tariff schedule.
“When Chapter 546 came along, the City addressed the issue. But was it really addressed in a fair and equitable manner?” Manley asks.
He cites two major sticking points, right off the top.
Firstly, under the new provisions only taxi brokerages are allowed to alter the tariff -- which sits at an initial drop of $3.25, plus $1.74 for each kilometre.
“So I as an independent, I can never raise the tariff, or lower the tariff except under one circumstance – for a senior, or a person with a disability, if I choose,” Manley notes.
He claims this represents one of several violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom found within Chapter 546 (which he wants the City to scrap, and rewrite from scratch with “meaningful input” from the taxi industry).
Secondly, the taxi meter rate must reflect the new rate. So, each individual taxi meter would require recalibrating to allow for several rate structures.
To Manley’s knowledge, no Toronto taxi brokerage has initiated a change in the tariff as yet, and no taxi owner has the required reprogrammed taxi meter.
He stresses that, unlike the many part-timers found amongst Toronto’s 72,000-plus PTC drivers, “we earn our living in the (for hire) industry.”
“With these companies taking around 70 percent of our customers, how can we afford to reduce our rates?” he asks. “There’s no possible way. We could not survive, as our business and living costs are not reduced to compensate for the reduced tariff.”
He alleges such bylaw amendments are, “all part of the City’s master plan”, to drive the cab industry into the ground, once and for all.
“Municipalities allowing a taxi meter reduction -- which will be a lot more prevalent than a meter increase -- is just the final piece in the puzzle to eradicate our industry, and replace it with Private Transportation Companies like Uber and Lyft,” he offers.
Furthermore, he notes the regulations pertaining to raising the taxi tariff are far tougher than those for reducing it.
Chapter 546 reads that, “A taxicab broker may offer, and the vehicle-for-hire driver that agrees to provide the trip shall accept a rate lower than the tariff for a taxicab trip, if the trip is booked directly with the taxi broker, the broker has set and posted the discounted rate, and the taxi meter can calculate and display the discounted rate to be charged to the passenger.”
By contrast, “the tariff can only be raised by a taxi broker if the trip is booked using a software application, the broker clearly communicates the rate to the customer before the trip commences, and the broker maintains an electronic record of the higher rate and provides the passengers with an electronic receipt at ride’s end.” (That receipt must set out the rate charged, total duration and distance of the trip, total amount paid, date and time the trip ended, locations at which the trip started and ended, and the driver’s name and taxi plate number).
With taxi brokerage owners, taxi vehicle owners and drivers, PTC’s, and their vehicle owners and drivers all defined as “operating a taxi business” under the Federal Excise Tax Act, Manley wonders how the rules pertaining to tariffs in one category (PTC’s) can be so different from another category (taxis)?”
Once against, he asserts this violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom-Equality Rights which states that, “Every individual is equal before and under the law, and has the right to equal protection and equal benefits of the law without discrimination.”
“Until the lowering or raising of tariffs is available to everyone working in a taxi business as defined in the Excise Tax Act, the bylaw sections relating to the lowering or raising of a tariff are ultra vires, redundant, a moot point, and therefore without effect,” he adds.
A few weeks after the VFH bylaw took effect on July 15, 2016 , Manley e-mailed then MLS executive director Tracey Cook pointing out the “unfairness” of this section. She acknowledged his concerns, and said she’d get back to him. He’s still waiting for a response, while Cook recently moved on to a new position as Deputy City Manager, Infrastructure and Development Services.