The City of Toronto has released its long-anticipated report on ride-sharing services like Uber, with the stated goal of putting the companies on a level playing field with the taxi industry.
Tracey Cook, executive director of the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards committee, unveiled the proposed changes outlined in the report at City Hall on Thursday morning.
The report recommends reducing the regulatory burden on taxis and limousines, while increasing some regulations on Private Transportation Companies (PTC), like Uber and Lyft.
“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.
The report’s key recommendations are:
- Reduction of cab drivers’ licensing and training fees
- Cab companies permitted to offer discounts through apps, as Uber does
- Forbidding PTCs from picking up fares off the street
- Requiring criminal background checks for Uber drivers, which will be sent to Uber, while taxi companies must send theirs directly to the city
- Uber drivers must be inspected annually at provincially-run facilities, while cabs are inspected biannually at city-run garages
“The people want choice and I think this provides a reasonably level playing field,” Coun. John Campbell (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre) told reporters outside the announcement.
“Our job as a city is to offer some semblance of order and regulation,” he added. “That’s what this report does.”
Not without its critics
Opponents say these new regulations merely codify and legitimize the two different sets of rules cabbies and Uber drivers have to abide by.
Coun. Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York), for instance, called the report a “complete capitulation” to the PTCs, which she characterized as “shocking.”
“Uber’s arrogance and complete disregard for city regulations to date has been successful,” she said.
“Instead of leveling the playing field, we’ve dropped the floor,” Davis said.
“It’s a blueprint for deregulation and self-regulation that does not protect the interests of the public and it does not protect the interests of the drivers,” she added. “The city has abandoned its role in this proposed regulation.”
Staunch Uber critic Coun. Jim Karygiannis (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt), echoed Davis’s sentiment.
“We are allowing Uber to get away with murder; no licensing, no marking, no plates — nothing,” he said, suggesting the regulations don’t go nearly far enough in reining in Uber.
Mohammed Mirza, president of the Toronto-based Bangladeshi Taxi Drivers Association, insisted that the services offered by Uber and taxicabs are virtually identical and should thus be placed them under the same regulations.
“Our drivers are completely regulated by the current framework, but the Uber system has nothing in terms of regulation,” Mirza said.
“They say it’s ride-sharing. It’s not,” he added.
“They pick up customers from A and drop them off at B,” which is precisely what cabbies do.
“This is not the even and level playing field that we were hoping for,” said Toronto Taxi Alliance spokesperson Sam Moini, who predicted the regulations will contribute to the taxi industry’s extinction.
“Drivers won’t be able to make a decent living.”