The end of 24 hr taxi service in Toronto?

Industry insider says planned reforms could leave you waiting for a ride

An overhaul of Toronto's taxi industry could make it a lot harder for you to hail a cab in the city.

That's the prediction of Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Beck Taxi.

A city staff report recommends moving toward a single type of cab licence.  Under the proposed Toronto Taxi Licence, only the owner the licence would be able to drive a cab and collect fares, though the licence would be transferable.

Hubbard points to Calgary as an example of where the owner/driver-only model has hurt the people who count on cabs.

"On weekends, late nights, bad weather, these people are not getting taxi service...and that's the path we're taking here."

Hubbard expects that if the same scheme is approved in Toronto, cabbies will pull 18-hour shifts behind the wheel to keep up profits, but that could still leave a gap in service.

"They're gonna go daytime, they're gonna take maybe the busy Friday, Saturday night, but they're gonna go home...before the bars close, because they don't wanna have to put up with drunk people.", predicts Hubbard.

Among the changes being debated is a $25 charge for anyone who throws up inside a city cab. Toronto is also trying to move toward having all of the city's taxis be wheelchair accessible. City staff is recommending city council make a short term goal of six per cent compliance in time for the Pan Am Games next summer.

Hubbard says sky-high insurance will also be a deciding factor for cabbies on when to drive. She says the insurance industry has told Beck that the cost to insure an accessible owner/driver licensed cab in Toronto could cost as much as $18,000/year.

She can imagine some drivers deciding that the cash they could earn from pickups in a snowstorm isn't worth the risk of crashing their cabs and a potential bump in their insurance bill.

Close to 600 people signed up to speak on the issue at City Hall on Thursday as it was debated by Toronto's Licensing and Standards Committee.  The clerk's office says it's the longest deputation list the city has seen since amalgamation.

The vast majority of speakers were taxi licence owners and drivers, opposed to the proposed overhaul. Many insisted there's no need to fix something they don't believe is broken.

City staff believe the overrhaul will eliminate some middlemen in the current system and in turn keep fees in check. Toronto's taxi rates are among the highest in major North American cities.

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