Will Toronto Taxi Reforms Accomodate Taxi Drivers?

Update: April 13, 2011 City of Toronto Won’t Increase Taxi Fares on May 17, 2011

Taxi driver’s are hard workers.  A twelve (12) hour shift, six (6) days a week,  is not an uncommon schedule for taxi driver’s licenced by the City of Toronto.

This schedule isn’t often worked because the taxi driver wants to, he/she has to, given the high cost of operating a taxi.

The last time the drop fee was raised by the City of Toronto was three (3) years ago in 2008.  Currently Toronto the “drop fee” in Toronto is $ 4.25 and $ 0.25 per .143 km.

Toronto has one of the highest cost of living within Canada.

With the high cost of auto insurance, fuel and fees, it is a surprise that taxi driver’s can make any living at all, let alone a decent living for themselves and their families.

The City of Toronto has made a decision not to increase the fares (drop fee or the fees for time/mileage) this year.

Standard (licence) Taxi Plates

The system for taxi driver’s used to be quite simple.  If you were working full time as a taxi driver, you could put your name on a list at the City of Toronto and as long as you continuously drove for ten (10) years (their primary source of income is derived from the taxi business), your name went on a list for a taxi plate (aka “taxi licence”) and eventually you would receive your plate.

Once you received your taxi plate (taxi licence), this meant a number of things:

  • you had equity with a financial institution and could receive a loan, using your plate as collateral
  • if you were sick or on holidays, you could rent out your plate to another driver during that passage of time of illness or vacation
  • when you made the decision to retire (as opposed to having circumstances forcing you to retire) you could utlize your plate as your pension fund.  You could borrow monies against your plate, lease it out or sell it or leave it to your loved ones.
  • currently a plate sells for approximately $250,000.00
  • Most employers provide sick time or disability plans and paid vacation leave, along with some sort of pension plan or severance pay – taxi driver’s are self-employed and have none of these benefits at their disposal.

    Ambassador (licence) Taxi Plates

    The Task Force to Review the Taxi Industry
    On April 16, 1998, Toronto City Council established the Task Force to Review the Taxi industry in response to growing public concerns about a decline in customer service levels, safety standards, and working conditions within the taxi industry. The Task Force was comprised of seven members of City Council. On November 3, 1998 the Task Force came back with their report and an amendment moved in late November, 1998.

    The City of Toronto began issuing Ambassador taxi licences (taxi plates)  in 1998.

    The City of Toronto intended that Ambassador Taxicabs be owner-operated and put in rules that most drivers complain as being too restrictive (there cannot be a second driver, the plate is non-transferrable and cannot be sold, unlike a Standard plate which sells on the open market for a quarter of a million dollars).

    With an Ambassador taxicab, the driver can not rent or lease their plate and therefore cannot be sick or incapacitated by illness and cannot leave to go on vacation. Anytime away from work, is without pay.

    Since the introduction of the Ambassador plates, the City of Toronto has issued over 1,400 Ambassador licence plates.

    The new system has been so disagreeable to new taxi driver’s (that a two-tier system now exists) that the City of Toronto’s change from the Standard plates to the new Ambassador plates that it has been challenged in the courts and now the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights hearings are still continuing.

    The City of Toronto elected a new mayor in October, 2010. Mayor Ford is on record as having said he does not support the two-tier system in place (Standard plates vs. Ambassador plates) and will end it.

    The City of Toronto’s Licensing Department will begin reviewing this conundrum with a view of having a plan to have industry consultation to commence in the fall of 2011. It appears that another “Task Force to Review the Taxi Industry” will be put into place, with the objective of finalizing its’ recommendations to City Council in 2012.



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