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Ride-share companies must share responsibility


City politicians are addicted to adjusting things. We can’t just create a law or policy and then let it lie – there is often an enterprising councillor wishing to crack open a done deal to tweak "just one small thing."

Municipal licensing of taxis is a perfect example of this. Over the years, we’ve debated and changed rules around the rates, licensing and training, brokering and shift driving, age of vehicles, accessibility of vehicles and most recently, the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles. Higher standards The issues used to be about improving the experience of passengers and the driver who doesn’t own his cab. These days it’s about applying standards to both the taxi and limousine industry and the newer app-based car services such as Uber and Lyft. In Council next week, the Mayor and Council will look at a report that reviews the effectiveness of the rules we created in 2016 when Uber and its competitors first appeared on the scene.

When the report went through the Licensing Committee a few weeks ago, they made dozens of amendments to the 2016 bylaw. The amendment I want to emphasize is the environmental regulation of vehicles – here's why. "Green" taxis In the last days of Mayor Ford's term of office in 2014 – when the Mayor had been sidelined and Councillor Norm Kelly was the city's Acting Mayor – Council tinkered some of our taxi laws and introduced a phased approach to "greening" the taxi industry. The new guidelines required taxi owners and companies to move to low-emissions, fuel-efficient or electric cabs within seven years.

(Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty)

Flash forward to 2016. Uber had come to town, insisting they were not a taxi service and blatantly functioned outside our rules, claiming "We just run an app; some people use our app to share their cars with other people.” In my view, that’s a taxi. If it walks like a duck... At that time, the green taxi bylaw was still in its early days, so we didn't make any changes then. I regret that now – there are so many ride-hailing apps and drivers on the road today that they represent a significant contribution to our city’s carbon footprint. It’s unfair to hold taxis to account for their fuel emissions and not other services like Uber and Lyft. Shared responsibility Rather than bring the Ubers of the world into the future and require them to use green vehicles, city staff are recommending to simply level the playing field and require all cabs and car services to meet the same emissions standards as your personal car (which are lower). This is because of concern that requiring all vehicles to meet these standards would be difficult to enforce and might result in a legal battle.

I don't think that's good enough. This is about the quality of the air we breathe – do we really want to jeopardize that? Collectively, you take your responsibility for clean air very seriously. Don Valley North has one of the highest rates of electric and hybrid car sales in the country. We have one of the highest rates of per capita transit ridership in the GTA. I have to believe you want clean air, and that you want us to meet our environmental goals. In order to do that, we have to take every opportunity to reduce our emissions.

We have spent years regulating and raising the quality of taxi cab vehicles. If ride-sharing companies want to come to town and compete with that, they need to admit the cars their drivers use are business vehicles and work to meet our environmental standards. We should aim to achieve equitable treatment of both services – not by lowering our standards but by applying high standards across the board.

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