A new bylaw aimed at regulating Toronto’s ridesharing services like Uber is being panned by the taxi industry, while some city officials are calling it a fair compromise.
The wording of the proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw released on Thursday would combine taxicabs, limousines and private ridesharing companies under one roof.
It includes lowering licensing fees for taxi drivers, having ridesharing vehicles subject to annual inspections and a minimum level of insurance.
“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,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement.
“Toronto has an opportunity to put the interests of its residents first and create a regulatory environment that protects drivers and allows companies to fairly compete.”
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But one taxi industry representative says some of the recommendations actually create a two-tier system with Uber getting the upper hand.
Rita Smith, executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance, points to a discrepancy on meter rates whereby Uber drivers are permitted to set their own price while taxi drivers are only allowed discounted rates for rides booked over the phone or through an app.
“Reducing fees without allowing the cab industry to set its own meter rates means nothing,” said Smith.
“Uber gets to charge less when they want to and more when it’s busy. Are they going to let cabs have the same latitude? I believe not.”
Smith is also concerned the recommendations continue to separate both taxi and Uber services despite promises to regulate both systems together.
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“It really makes no logical sense from any regulator point of view not to just make the regulations identical,” Smith said.
“Are we now going to have two different electrician licences, two different dentist licenses, two different restaurant licenses?”
But Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director Tracey Cook said over the 100 recommendations, many of them are taking away regulatory burden.
“These recommendations are enabling operational flexibility beyond what the taxi cab industry has had in the past,” said Cook.
“Our goal is to make it more simple, easier to operate, and not be the regulatory burden that the taxi cab industry has had.”
City councillors Jon Burnside and Mary-Margaret McMahon both released a statement Thursday in support of the regulatory proposals calling it fair and balanced.
“They cut licensing and training fees that impact drivers, remove restrictions on advertising in cabs and allow taxi companies to discount fares to remain competitive,” said Burnside.
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“Toronto is big enough for both traditional taxis and private vehicle for hire companies to co-exist. This report sets out the framework to ensure that the public is kept safe, drivers can earn a living and the City continues to move,” McMahon said.
Councillors who oppose the new regulations say the bylaw doesn’t go far enough.
“We have an interest at the level of government that regulates taxi brokers to regulate Uber,” said councillor Janet Davis.
“What this is about is deregulation and self-regulation and I don’t think that’s the direction we should be going.”
“Taxi cabs you’re going to have to come in twice a year for us to have an inspection with you. Uber you can go to any back lane mechanic and get a certificate that says you’re fit,” said councillor Jim Karygiannis. “I’m sorry but this is not the level playing field.”
Uber issued a statement Thursday saying it will look at the bylaw in detail before making an official statement.
“We commend Tracey Cook and city staff for working diligently to find accommodation for all parties in the ground transportation market by proposing updates to existing regulations,” said Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath.
“We will be reviewing the report in depth and meeting with city staff to further understand how the proposed regulations may be implemented, and will have more to say in the coming days.”
The recommendations will be debated when it is presented to the Licensing and Standards Committee next Thursday.
If approved, the new bylaw will be voted on by city council in May.
Below are some of the key recommendations:
-Staff recommend that taxicabs continue to charge the current regulated rate for all trips
-Taxi meter rates can be discounted for rides booked over the phone or through an app
-Limousine brokers and ridesharing companies can set their own rates which may vary in different time periods
-Accessible training fees waived for licensed taxicab drivers and owners
-New Vehicle-for-Hire Drivers licensing class application fee is now $290
-New Taxicab Operators licensing class application fee is now $500
-New ridesharing licensing class with a scalable licensing fee structure are as follows:
Application fee: $20,000 non-refundable
Provisional licence issuance fee of $10 per driver
Per trip fee of $0.20 per trip originating in Toronto
3-month provisional licence fee of $10 per Driver
-Removal of mandatory minimum owner-operator hours for all taxicab owners
-Taxicabs subject to semi-annual, City-run mechanical inspections
-Limousines would no longer attend the City for semi-annual inspections, but must submit an annual Safety Standards Certificate issued by a Ministry of Transportation
-Ridesharing companies responsible for annual vehicle safety check at licensed garage of their choosing
-No vehicles shall be used that are older than seven years
-Taxicab, limousine or ridesharing drivers are subjected to criminal background and driver screening requirements as established by the City
-Taxicab, limousine and Uber required to carry a minimum of $2 million of collision and passenger hazard insurance
-Ridesharing drivers additionally required to carry $5 million of commercial general liability insurance.