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Toronto proposes different rules for taxis, Uber drivers

‘We are allowing Uber to get away with murder,’ Coun. Jim Karygiannis says

CBC April 7, 2016

The City of Toronto has issued draft rules that would loosen regulations for the taxi industry while imposing new requirements for ride-hailing services like Uber.

The more than 100 recommendations were unveiled at city hall following 18 months of protests by taxi drivers who said unregulated Uber drivers were unfairly undercutting them.

The recommendations propose different sets of rules for Uber and for taxis. Among the proposed regulations are yearly inspections for Uber vehicles, background checks for Uber drivers and the creation of “vehicle-for-hire” licenses.

The city is also making recommendations to ease what the report calls “the burden on taxis.”

The proposal has been met with anger by some city councillors, including Jim Karygiannis.

“We are allowing Uber to get away with murder; no licensing, no marking, no plates — nothing,” he said, adding that the recommendations don’t go far enough to level the playing field with taxis.

Highlights from the report

Fares:

  • Taxi brokers can offer discounts to people who call or use their mobile or internet applications to hail cabs. Fares will not change for people who hail cabs on the street or who use taxi stands.
  • There was no mention of curtailing Uber’s surge pricing.

Mechanical inspections:

  • Any 4-door vehicle less than seven years old can be used as a taxi, a limousine or an Uber car.
  • Taxis: still required to get semi-annual inspections at city-run garages.
  • Uber: required to get annual inspections at any garage in the city that meets the city’s requirements.
  • The city is recommending that it undertake a separate review that would look into the feasibility of allowing taxis to get their vehicles inspected at any garage in the city that meets the city’s requirements.
  • Taxis will not be required to install snow tires every winter.

Licences:

  • Replace the existing taxi and limousine driver licence classes and create a “vehicle-for-hire” licence for Uber and limousine drivers.
  • Changes to ambassador taxis, Toronto taxis and wheelchair-accessible taxis, which includes changes that would come into play when selling and owning the vehicles.
  • Taxi drivers must pay a yearly $290 fee for their licence.
  • Uber drivers must pay a yearly $10 fee for their licence, but 20 cents per trip will be paid to the city.

Background checks:

  • Require criminal background checks for all drivers.
  • Checks on Uber drivers must be done by Uber, and the city said it would audit the company to make sure it is completing the checks successfully.

Insurance:

  • Cabs are currently required to carry $2 million in collision and passenger hazard insurance — Uber drivers will be required to do the same.
  • Uber drivers will also be required to carry $5 million of commercial general liability insurance.

Accessibility:

  • Increase accessible taxi fleet by 25 per cent by 2021 by issuing licences to drivers on the wait list (this could be up to 200 more vehicles).
  • Waive licence application and licence renewal fees for accessible cabs, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016.
  • Waive training fees for drivers of accessible cabs.
  • Incentivize Uber drivers by requiring non-accessible cabs to pay a fee and ensure that accessible vehicles have comparable wait times to accessible vehicles from taxi services.
  • All vehicle-for-hire (Uber) drivers complete a training program.

Support from mayor, but councillor ‘shocked’

Mayor John Tory said the city has needed to modernize its ground transportation industry for years, and he said the report’s recommendations protect public safety and treat people fairly.

“Today, we have new regulations that create a level playing field, provide safe, convenient options to our residents and allow drivers to earn a competitive living,” he said in a statement.

But at least two city councillors came out swinging against the recommendations.

“Instead of levelling the playing field, we’ve dropped the floor and we’ve completely caved to Uber, and I’m shocked by it, frankly,” said Coun. Janet Davis, who spoke at city hall following the release of the report.

She said Uber does not protect drivers or customers.

“We know they surge price and we know they gouge drivers. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t put regulations on the worst aspects of this new kind of system,” Davis said.

“It says to me that Uber’s arrogance and complete disregard for city regulations to date has been successful,” she added.

Karygiannis said there is no oversight for Uber, but the city is “hands-on” with oversight for the taxi industry.

He said that while taxis have to have cameras, Uber vehicles do not. Because of this, he said he would never let any of his daughters get in an Uber vehicle in fear for their safety.

Heated debates, major taxi protests

City staff have been working on the regulations for Uber and its UberX service — which allows anyone to operate their private car like a taxi — since last fall. In February, councillors voted against seeking an injunction to stop Uber’s operations.

Throughout the winter, furious taxi drivers staged one major protest outside city hall and threatened another during February’s NBA All-Star weekend. Uber, meanwhile, has continued to expand its service.

The city has already made some changes to the taxi industry. In November, it reduced the taxi meter rate so that the minimum fee to get in a cab is $3.25. UberX’s base fare, however, is $2.50.

In January, Uber received a taxi brokerage for part of its business. UberX remains outside of the bylaws.

City council is set to vote on the proposed changes on May 3-4.

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