Toronto grants Uber first-ever Canadian licence to operate

Update: see previous post – April 6, 2016 Toronto: To Announce New Regulations for Taxi’s & UberX

Uber. The City of Toronto has issued a licence to Uber as the first private transportation company to operate in the city. photo by fightyourtickets.ca
Uber. The City of Toronto has issued a licence to Uber as the first private transportation company to operate in the city. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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A group of taxi drivers says it will demonstrate starting around 7 a.m. Wednesday at the city’s licensing office at the East York Civic Centre.

A planned protest by a group of taxi workers Wednesday will proceed despite a late-afternoon announcement that the city has now licensed Uber as the first private transportation company in Toronto under new regulations.

It’s the first time that Uber has been issued a vehicle-for-hire licence in Canada, as North American cities continue to grapple with how to manage the disruptive technology that has threatened the business of traditional taxi companies.

Licensing for the app-based ride-hailing service, which was made official Tuesday afternoon, comes after a protracted council battle that saw a new bylaw passed in May. That bylaw, which dictates a new licensing regime that incorporates companies like Uber, came into force July 15.

“Within a month of the bylaw taking effect we have been successful in process change, technology change and we’ve now issued the license to Uber and we’re going forward from here,” the city’s executive director for licensing, Tracey Cook, told reporters at city hall Tuesday.

Row of taxis lined up at a stop sign on Edward St. at Yonge St. in Toronto. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The city will now screen UberX drivers — who use their personal cars to ferry passengers at fares cheaper than those of traditional taxis — and provide them with a separate private transportation company driver licence.

“The goal at this point is to have those drivers licensed by the end of September, if not sooner,” Cook said.

But the taxi industry considered July 15 a deadline and says delays in implementing new licences has meant UberX drivers have continued to be on the roads unlawfully for a month.

City Taxi’s Paul Sekhon, part of United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA which organized the protest, told the Star they’re going ahead with their plans.

The group plans to demonstrate starting around 7 a.m. on Wednesday at the city’s licensing office at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave.

Toronto police warn that a group of cab drivers has been swiping riders' bank cards as they pay — and then driving straight to ATM machines to empty bank accounts before victims even realize what's happened. Dozens of cab riders have been victimized across the city in recent weeks and the crimes are continuing daily, the lead investigator in the case said Friday.
taxis waiting at a taxi stand. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

“We’re still going ahead with the protest 100 per cent,” Sekhon said. “You’re putting 10,000 lives in jeopardy over here because you don’t want to do it by the schedule . . . There’s no law and order for these people.”

Cook said her staff have been working “diligently” behind-the-scenes to implement the new system, which will see the city review some 12,000 applications for driver’s licences from Uber alone — which includes a criminal background check and insurance for at least $2 million in liabilities. There are currently no other companies licensed under the new rules.

Toronto Taxi's lined up at hotel taxi stand. Toronto politicians and taxi industry spokespeople hope that a reduced fare will make hiring a taxi an easier option for passengers.
Row of taxis at a cab stand at a downtown Toronto hotel. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The city will enforce the new rules, Cook said, with plans to hire 12 new members of the enforcement team.

She denied there have been delays, with the rollout of changes under the new rules starting July 15.

Cook said Uber has co-operated with new rules, including removing vehicles from their platform that are more than seven years old. “They’ve seen a reduction of about 30 per cent of their driver base,” Cook said.

Will the new regulations allow for UberX vehicles to share the Toronto HOV lanes with the T.T.C. and Taxis? photo by fightyourtickets.ca

She said other aspects of the bylaw, which relaxes rules for the taxi industry, have already been implemented, including taxis being allowed to set cheaper fares through their own mobile apps.

Not everyone within the often fractured taxi industry agrees with the demonstration planned for Wednesday.

The Toronto Taxi Alliance, which represents brokerages like Beck Taxi, has said while they share the drivers’ frustration about Uber, any disruption upsets Torontonians — the people they are trying to maintain as passengers.

“I have a lot of respect for the taxi industry. They’re upset, it’s a period if transformation,” Cook said Tuesday. “They have a right to do what it is they want to do. It’s unfortunate. I would really rather see the taxi cab industry work on delivering quality customer service to the people that use their service instead of protesting.”

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