Photo Credit: REUTERS
Toronto City Council temporarily freezes license for new ride-hailing drivers under concerns for rider safety
Natalia Manjarres, The Mike Contributor
Toronto City Councillors passed a motion to pause the issuing of new taxi, limousine, and private transportation licenses as of November 10th, 2021, at 4:30 p.m. The halt will remain until a driver’s training program is established.
In July 2019, Toronto City Council passed a bylaw requiring the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, to develop a driver training accreditation program for ride-hailing drivers. By June 1st, 2020, all new applicants would need to pass a training course to qualify for a license. Although efforts to develop a program were made at the beginning of 2020, the pandemic shifted priorities for the city’s licensing division, which is responsible for issuing licenses for 99 different types of business. No program has yet to be instituted.
“It’s just not acceptable,” said mayor John Tory, in reference to the lengthy delay.
Concerns that drivers are not sufficiently trained are behind the Council’s decision. In 2018, Nicholas Cameron, a 28-year-old Uber passenger, was killed in a crash when his driver slowly re-entered the highway after making a roadside stop. Cameron’s mother was among those who lobbied the council to introduce the training. Others agree that ridesharing companies could do more to keep Torontonians safe.
“We urge this committee to recommend mandating a Taxi and PTC driver training program immediately,” reads a letter submitted to City Council by Cycle Toronto’s Executive Director. Walk Toronto and Ride Fair Toronto Coalition also sent letters in support of the motion.
Although the license freeze prevents ride-hailing companies from hiring new drivers, it does nothing to stop current drivers from leaving their positions. Uber warns that the outcome for consumers could be negative. Their app’s algorithm for determining prices reacts to changes in market supply and demand, meaning that users could be faced with higher prices and longer wait times. The impact could be exacerbated by the busy holiday season and the existing shortage of drivers compared to 2019 levels.
In a document submitted to City Council, Uber also recounted how their services are important for providing women safe transportation.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) raised concerns against the Council’s decision, alluding to the role that ridesharing services play in preventing impaired driving.
“When there’s a lot of drivers available, people make the right choice,” said MADD’s Chief Executive Officer. He suggested that ridesharing services were especially important during the holiday season, which involves many activities promoting alcohol consumption.
The city has not clarified when they expect the training program will be up and running. Applications for program facilitators are due on December 10th of this year. Aspiring facilitators must demonstrate how they will instruct prospect drivers on topics such as safe driving practices, considerations for driving in urban areas, and anti-racism and discrimination. The City’s evaluations on applications could be completed by the end of January 2022.
Other municipalities have not been impacted by Toronto’s decision. New drivers can pick up customers in locations around the GTA such as Brampton, Mississauga, and Vaughan.