Update: see previous posts – Jan.31/16 Quebec taxi drivers to file injunction to ban Uber, Jan.29/16 UBER: Edmonton legalizes It, Is Toronto Next?, Dec.26/15 UberX Drivers Face New Insurance Challenges
Regulations to be proposed by Toronto city staff Thursday will include a separate category for services like Uber.
Cabbies and UberX drivers would face different rules for vehicle inspections, police checks and more under long-awaited proposed City of Toronto regulations to be unveiled Thursday.
Sources say the intent is to accommodate UberX and any other ride-sharing services that dispatch private vehicle owners via an app, while loosening regulations on the traditional taxi industry. Protections for cab drivers, many of whom do not own their vehicles, means some deregulation would be phased in.
Taxi industry leaders — who have demanded a single set of rules for both cabs and private vehicles dispatched via ride-hailing app such as Uber — on Wednesday rejected the city report before it was released.
Rita Smith, executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance, said: “We want the same rules for all and would be gravely disappointed, and a little skeptical, that Uber, which is supposed to be super competitive, can’t compete on a level playing field and needs a special set of rules.”
Sources say more than a dozen recommendations include:
- Requiring UberX vehicles be inspected annually at provincially certified garages, while cabs would still need twice-annual inspections at city-run facilities. The reasoning, one source said, is many cab owners don’t drive their cars, and drivers are concerned that owners would find ways to scrimp on inspections unless forced to use city garages. City staff will, however, propose a pilot project whereby cabs could be inspected at accredited private garages.
- Both kinds of drivers would be subject to criminal record checks but Uber, not the city, would collect the results for UberX drivers, to be presented upon request by a city inspector. The city says that is akin to the way restaurants are responsible for ensuring servers are certified, and can be audited any time. Different kinds of UberX audits would happen daily.
- Cab drivers’ licensing and training fees would be reduced in an effort to level the playing field.
- Taxi companies, which now charge strictly regulated fares, would be allowed to discount prices on app- or phone-dispatched rides to remain competitive with Uber.
- Only cabs would be allowed to pick up people hailing a ride on the street, said Mayor John Tory, in an interview Wednesday from San Francisco as he was about to leave for Asia on a trade trip.
Tory dismissed the idea there should be one set of regulations for all.
“The notion that the regulations were ever going to be exactly the same — you are dealing with two different businesses,” Tory said.
“Our goal is to provide equitable rules for the two parts of the industry and choice for the customers.”
Councillor Jim Karygiannis, city council’s most outspoken Uber critic and taxi defender, said he saw the report Wednesday and is not satisfied. He refused to discuss specifics but said “it’s disheartening, what I’ve seen.”
Whether Uber likes what it sees depends on the details — the company approves of specialized rules in Edmonton, but rejects those approved by Calgary’s council.
Despite her unhappiness with what she’s hearing about the two-tier system, Smith did not foresee drivers rushing to the streets in raucous anti-Uber protests like those seen in December, and which were threatened for February’s NBA all-star weekend.
“These proposed regulations have to go to city council, and we know for a fact there are a ton of city councillors who will have nothing to do with replacing safety standards,” Smith said.
At Queen’s Park on Wednesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she is watching cities including Ottawa, which last week released its proposed regulations, and now Toronto try to accommodate technological change.
“The sharing economy is here to stay. We have to make sure how everyone is safe, how to make sure consumers are protected . . . ” Wynne said.
“At some point, (the Ontario government) will bring forward a provisional framework. But I do think it is important to recognize that the municipalities need to take the lead on this.”