New regulations for ground transportation industry up for debate at city hall

CTV Toronto  April 13, 2016 Chris Fox

New guidelines that would legalize services like Uber while removing many of the regulations currently faced by taxis will be up for debate at the city’s licensing and standards committee today.

The guidelines, which were released last week, would create a separate licensing class for ridesharing services like Uber while at the same time requiring that drivers undergo background checks, have a vehicle no more than seven years old that is inspected annually and possess automobile liability insurance of at least $2 million.

The regulations also forbid Uber drivers from picking up passengers on the street or “having a roof light or any markings” that could make their vehicle look like a taxi.

As well, the guidelines remove or relax many regulations that were previously faced by taxi drivers around training and the types of vehicles that they can use.

“There are currently more than 45,000 trips per day taken by the public in unregulated vehicles-for-hire,” Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards Tracy Cook said in the staff report outlining the guidelines. “The development of this new regulatory framework ensures that these vehicle-for-hire participants are regulated, as are taxicabs and limousines, balancing the city’s regulatory interests with existing industry practices.”

Toronto Taxi Alliance spokesperson, Sam Moini, told CP24 Thursday that the new guidelines will make the ground transportation industry even more “un-level.”

“You have two separate rules and regulations that are far apart from each other and it clearly gives the advantage to Uber over taxis,” he said.

“We are scaling back the hands of time when it comes to customer safety and protection and we are going back in time when it comes to vehicle inspections, vehicle requirements, snow tires and competence in the English language.”

Tory has backed guidelines

Mayor John Tory has previously said that “Uber is here to stay” and last week he told CP24 that the new guidelines are “fair and equitable.”

Many representatives for the taxi industry, however, have panned the regulations, which they say create a “two-tiered system” and effectively “deregulate” the ground transportation system.

Several councillors have also spoken out against the regulations, including long-time Uber opponent and licensing and standards committee member Jim Karygiannis.

In a letter sent to his colleagues on the licensing and standards committee Wednesday night, Karygiannis said the regulations don’t “create a level playing field.”

Karygiannis says he will table a motion at today’s meeting that would, among other things, require that Uber driver possess commercial insurance, be licensed by the City of Toronto and have their vehicles at a city-run garage twice a year.

“If puppies and kitties need to be registered directly with the City of Toronto, then surely any driver picking up my loved ones must be as well,” he said in his letter.