Regulatory, Licensing

Bylaw review ensures fairness for taxis, PTCs

By Staff

It’s vital that the City of Toronto completes a promised review of its bylaws to certify a level playing field for taxis and private transportation companies (PTCs), Toronto licensing and compliance lawyer Anar Dewshi writes in The Lawyer’s Daily.

“The City of Toronto must ensure that enforcement of the vehicle-for-hire bylaw is fair and that both PTCs and taxi drivers are equally regulated,” she writes.

Legal enforcement is imperative with more companies wanting to join the already crowded city marketplace, says Dewshi, principal of Dewshi Law Practice.

San Francisco ride-hailing company Lyft recently launched in Toronto, while InstaRyde started operations on Dec. 1, 2017, and Facedrive is expected to begin service in 2018 — all competing against Uber, she says.

Uber started the ball rolling when it established service in 2016 by lobbying the city to legalize ride-sharing, Dewshi writes.

In July of that year, the City of Toronto created a new legislative framework and regulatory regime for ride-sharing mobile apps when it enacted the Municipal Code, Chapter 545, Licensing of Vehicles-For-Hire, the article notes.

The bylaw also removed a number of restrictions previously levied on taxi and limousine services: taxi drivers are no longer required to undergo 17-day training, are permitted to own more than one taxi and have decreased annual licensing fees, says Dewshi.

Among the measures approved by council:

  • PTCs will be allowed to operate in Toronto by booking rides only through a smartphone application.
  • PTCs can charge a $3.25 minimum fare, no maximum fares and “surge” peak-time pricing.
  • Taxi companies will also be permitted to implement “surge” peak-time pricing for rides that are only booked via a smartphone app.
  • For the purposes of safety, taxis must continue to have cameras, and flashing emergency lights but private transportation is exempt from this requirement. Note the city will report by July 2017 whether or not private transportation companies also require cameras.
  • Both PTCs and taxis must have insurance of at least $2 million on all drivers for bodily injury, death and damages to people or property.

“To ensure safety of passengers, all private transport drivers must have a PTC licence from the City of Toronto and undergo mandatory background screenings,” Dewshi writes. “The screening will review the driver’s driving record for the past three years as well as their criminal history.”

The bylaws are intended to even the playing field between ride-sharing services and taxi companies, which voiced strong opposition to these new platforms due to the increased competition, decreased profits, the threat to public safety and congestion on city streets, says the article.

“The TTC has also noticed a decrease in ridership and has developed a new ridership growth strategy to combat this issue,” Dewshi says.

The City of Toronto promised to review the vehicle-for-hire bylaw after one year, but so far that hasn’t happened, she says, adding the city’s executive director of municipal licensing and standards has indicated that because of the complexity of such an undertaking, it will take time.

“The taxi industry strongly opposes the lack of enforcement for the failure of compliance of the private transport companies by the City of Toronto,” Dewshi writes. “Under the bylaws, PTCs are required to display stickers to identify them and are prohibited from picking up fares hailed from the streets.

"The City of Toronto was also required to report on whether or not private transportation companies require cameras. This has yet to be done by the City of Toronto.”

Enforcement of the bylaws is overseen by the city’s Municipal Licensing & Standards Bylaw Enforcement unit, which investigates violations such as the failure to display a PTC sticker and licence as well as cases of drivers picking up passengers at cabstands or otherwise soliciting fares, Dewshi says.

“Moreover, the unit will not investigate consumer service complaints such as driver behaviour or fares, as those must be directed to the PTC,” she writes.

The City of Toronto must ensure that enforcement of the vehicle-for-hire bylaw is fair and that both PTCs and taxi drivers are equally regulated, Dewshi says.

“Additional legislation isn’t required at this time, although the City of Toronto must dedicate resources to review the legislative framework to determine what enforcement actions must be undertaken to ensure compliance from PTCs.

"Taxi drivers, PTCs and the City of Toronto must work together to ensure vehicle safety, passenger safety and tackle regulatory issues.”

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