Taxi drivers and Uber supporters filled Toronto City Hall Tuesday as officials met to discuss regulations for the ride-hailing app, Uber.
The Municipal Licensing and Standards committee voted to adopt some of the recommendations from a licensing staff report, including reducing Toronto’s base rate for cab fares from $4.25 to $3.25 in a bid to allow taxis to compete with Uber. But the committee rejected the recommendation to create a separate licensing category for the ride-hailing service, which would allow UberX could continue to operate as long as their drivers qualify.
Beck Taxi president Gail Beck-Souter said that Uber presents a safety issue. The Toronto taxi industry mandates that cabs carry more than $1,000 worth of equipment to ensure the safety of its customers, such as cameras and a fire extinguisher. Uber, on the other hand, doesn’t currently have these types of regulations.
“We have expectations in this city for public health and safety,” Beck-Souter said. “There is nothing stopping those people who are participating in this black market taxi service to join what already exists.”
Pozlulu Kabir, a cab driver in Toronto, said he’s frustrated that Uber drivers are bypassing the laws and expenses he has to deal with, like background checks, car inspections and buying a taxi permit that is almost $5,000. More importantly, he worries about what this could mean for his business.
“Taxi drivers are now having a hard time,” he said. “They are borrowing lines of credit. They are all desperate.” He added that he worries he would have to file for bankruptcy on the car repair shop he owns if the law passes.
Uber representatives say it is still possible for their services to coexist with the taxi industry.
Uber supporters also argue that they aren’t taking away taxi business, but are actually targeting people who would otherwise walk or take public transit.
Mayor John Tory issued a statement late Tuesday saying Uber and services like it “are here to stay.”
“It is time our regulatory system got in line with evolving consumer demands in the 21st century,” Tory said. “As mayor, I intend to see that it does, while being fair to all parties, respecting the law and public safety.”
The report’s recommendations still go to a vote at city council Sept. 30.