As a staunch supporter of Uber, I was overjoyed to hear that Toronto finally joined Edmonton and Ottawa in legalizing Uber. Kudos to both Mayor John Tory and Uber’s own tireless efforts to rally all loyal supporters, riders and drivers. After months of protests, turmoil and, at times, violence, Toronto city council approved new rules in a marathon meeting last week that finally allowed a legal, regulated UberX to continue operating in Canada’s largest city.
Mayor Tory convinced council to vote 27-15 in favour of the following new rules:
- Allow private transportation companies like Uber to operate in Toronto, booked only through a smartphone app, with a $3.25 minimum fare (Uber will pay $0.30 per trip as a “city fee”) and “surge” peak-time pricing.
- Allow taxis to adopt a “surge” peak-time pricing for rides booked via smartphone app.
- Uber cars are not allowed to be hailed on the street. Taxi rides that are hailed on the street, at a taxi stand or ordered over the phone, still face regulated rates set by the city with no “surge” pricing.
- Taxis will continue to be required to have cameras, and flashing emergency lights, but not for Uber. Have city staff report back next year on whether private transportation companies like Uber need cameras.
- Ensure Uber and taxis have insurance of at least $2 million on all drivers for bodily injury, death and damages to people or property.
- Undo 2014 reforms that would have phased out ownership of “standard” plates as a commodity and ensure all cabs be accessible for disabled by 2014.
- The city will eliminate its requirements for drivers to take training programs in order to get a licence; and taxi and limousine drivers will no longer have to take CPR and first-aid training.
As a consumer who frequently relies on taxi and Uber rides, I believe the city has struck a right balance. We continue to have value-for-money ride-sharing services and with the new rules, passengers’ safety is safeguarded with the stipulation of insurance for Uber. While most passengers do not like “surge pricing,” we still maintain the option of calling a cab by phone or hailing one on the street.
Of course, the new legislation is not perfect and grey areas continue to exist. I would prefer Uber vehicles to be mandated to install cameras in order to ensure safety for passengers. There does not seem to be tightened legislation on criminal background checks on Uber drivers and this still puts thousands of ride-sharing passengers in some sort of danger.
Taxi drivers are obviously not happy because they now officially face stiff competition. While Uber’s spokesperson in Canada said they can live with the new rules, they also expressed concern that higher expenses would discourage part-time drivers to join Uber as it would be challenging to maintain a sound livelihood with the new system.
But, all in all, this is a good, solid confirmation of democracy and a freedom of choice for the fourth largest city in North America. Mayor Tory and city council should be lauded for listening to consumers and embracing new technology; striking a reasonable balance between taxi companies and ride-sharing services; paving the road for the advent of more ride-hailing companies such as Lyft; and making a commitment to review and adapt the rules and legislation pertaining to ride-sharing in a year’s time.