The Toronto City Council will vote on whether to regulate (and recognize legally) Uber and its UberX service later in the week, but today was the first time the subject was debated in the council. It was a day of high emotion as both side of what is increasingly becoming a pitched war came out to support their respective cause.
Uber supporters were there to start a process that is likely to end this week with the controversial service legal and regulated in Toronto. On the other side of the fence are taxi drivers and those who support them, a group that has been more vocal than any in its objection to UberX. And in the middle was the rest of the nation as all eyes turned on Toronto as Canada’s largest and most populated city tackles the Uber problem.
UberX lets consumers contact nearby drivers via a smartphone app with GPS, it has been described as a quasi-taxi service but is not subject to the same regulations as taxi businesses. Toronto earlier attempted to ban the service outright, but now the city council is likely going to vote to regulate the service, which will irk taxi drivers further but will help ring clarity to UberX in terms of insurance.
Licensing executive director Tracey Cook took questions during the debate and explained what regulations will be in place and the details of the Transportation Network Company. A TNC has been used in the USA and will be adopted in Toronto to let peer to peer drive sharing companies like Uber to have specific licenses for its drivers. This will legitimize UberX operative who until now have been working for the company without a legal license to do so.
However, critics are saying any regulations for Uber will result in the death of the taxi industry, something the council denies. New initiatives will be put in place to help taxi drivers according to regulators:
- Issuing 100 new taxicab licenses to the 800 drivers on a waiting list. The aim is to increase the availability of accessible cabs.
- Amending bylaw definitions of taxicab, taxicab brokerage and limousine service company, to ensure Uber and its ilk are captured in the current regulatory regime.
- Asking the province to confirm that Uber has insurance coverage that covers UberX drivers. Uber claims it has, but the city remains unconvinced.
- Having staff consider, only when the city is satisfied that adequate insurance exists, under which rules UberX drivers have to operate.