Category Archives: Uber In Toronto

News on Uber in Toronto

Uber Campaign Pushes for Positive Regulations in Toronto

Toronto’s city licensing staff are gearing up to reveal its regulations that will be aimed at accommodating ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The U.S. company knows that for the most part it has customers on its side, so has started a PR campaign that is aimed at showing the city council that Torontonians want the service in their city.
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On Tuesday the company launched an online petition which will be used to press councilors into supporting ride-sharing regulations. However, as other Canadian cities have shown, not any old regulations will suit Uber and the company is pushing for “smart” and “progressive” laws.

It is a make or break time for Uber in Toronto. The city voted last year to draw up regulations and amend bylaws to adopt ride-sharing services, but the city’s regulations could be ignored by Uber if the company does not agree with the changes. If that scenario unfolds then the company could leave Toronto entirely, as it has recently done in Calgary under similar circumstances.

The precedence for adopting Uber is in Edmonton, where the city drew up new regulations and the company agreed to them. Indeed, Uber would already be legal in the city if it was not for an auto insurance issue that has halted Uber’s legalization until the summer.

Toronto would face no such auto insurance problems as Aviva Canada recently debuted a new coverage that offers a simple and affordable policy for drivers of ride-sharing companies. The city is likely to mirror Edmonton’s regulations closely, which would mean vehicle checks, background checks for drivers, and Class 4 licenses for drivers.

Uber has not said specifically what it expects from the Toronto regulations, but the company has pointed out that it hopes the city makes it possible for the company to work in the city and is not merely closing the door.

Of the new media campaign and petition, Uber’s general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said that the UberX service aids in getting transport support to areas of the city that have been “previously ignored by transit and by traditional transportation options.”

“We’ve heard quite good feedback, we’ve heard that city council does have an appetite to move forward and create positive regulations.”

The big question is, would Uber pull out of Toronto if regulations are not what it expects? The company pulled out of Calgary, but has stuck around in other cities and has shown that it will support drivers even if they are unregulated and uninsured. Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, so Uber leaving would hurt the company, even if only from a marketing point of view.

Black says it is “too soon” to discuss whether the company would leave city, but perhaps it is worth asking if Toronto can afford to ignore the economic opportunities presented by the sharing industry?

Taxi protest called off on NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto

Taxi drivers planning to protest regarding the UberX ride-sharing service in Toronto have performed a U-Turn and decided to call off the protest. The movement was designed to disrupt the start of the NBA All-Star weekend on Friday, the first time the showpiece sporting event has ever been held outside of the USA.

The historic event gave taxi associations an ideal platform to highlight their fight against Uber, while disrupting the NBA weekend would have certainly sent a message to authorities, who are starting to play ball with Uber. However, Mayor John Tory spoke earlier in the week suggesting the protest would not get drivers the sympathy they want and that the picket should be called off.
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Interestingly, the union organizing the protest has backed down and in an unprecedented move has even hinted that authority pressure may be the reason why the protest is called off.

“Emotions overran us … There will be no strike for the NBA All-Star weekend,” Paul Sekhon, of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association, said on Wednesday at Toronto city hall.

Toronto averted the protest after Sekhon and other taxi industry representatives spoke to city councilors Kristyn Wong-Tam, Janet Davis and Glenn De Baeremaeker, a meeting that clearly cooled tensions for now. However, unions are warning that the city must get its house in order and solve the problem with UberX, which operates illegally in Toronto.

Drivers say the service provides unfair competition because its freelance drivers do not have to go through the same costs and regulatory licensing as taxi operatives. Unions say if Toronto does not solve the Uber problem then another protest will inevitably follow after this weekend.

“We’re not saying we’re calling (the protest) off forever,” said Sam Moini, president of the Fleet Operators Association.

It certainly helped the situation that the councilors involved in the meeting are opposed to UberX, in its current unregulated state at least. They urged consumers in Toronto to avoid using the ride-sharing service that connects passengers with freelance drivers through a smartphone app.

De Baeremaeker said “If you love somebody, do not let them get into an Uber taxi,” while describing UberX as illegal, unsafe, and unfair.

Uber protest to hurt NBA All Star weekend in Toronto

The NBA All Star weekend is one of the biggest events on the American sporting calendar, and this year it will be held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Historic is a good way to describe the February 12 to 14 sporting extravaganza as it is the first time the NBA All-Star is being held outside of the United States.

Canada, the province of Ontario, and the city of Toronto have a lot of pressure because of that fact, and it seems the weekend will face a sizeable obstacle in the form of a giant taxi driver protest.
NBA All Star
Unions representing taxi drivers disgruntled over the rise of the UberX ride-sharing service in the city are organizing a protest next weekend that could bring Toronto to a standstill. Representatives are furious that doors appear to be opening for U.S. based company Uber, which has been operating illegally in Toronto since 2014.

The company is now under consideration for regulation after a city council vote late last year and Aviva Canada’s ride-sharing auto insurance policy for ride-sharing companies has been approved by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO). Taxi drivers are awaiting stricter rules against Uber and more protection for their own industry in the face of competition that they view as unfair.

An earlier protest in December brought downtown Toronto to a gridlock and the organizers of the NBA All-Star weekend protest say this new picket will be larger.

“We are going for a heavy duty strike much bigger than December 9th,” said Paul Sekhon, head of the newly formed United Taxi Workers Association of the GTA.

While public transport will still ship the majority of fans to the event, the Toronto government is suitably worried by a protest that could bring large parts of the city, including the area around the Air Canada Centre, to a standstill. Mayor John Tory said the 2016 All-Star game could bring as much as $100 million to the city and he said police may be forced to “take whatever steps necessary” to make sure the event is successful.

“It doesn’t enhance the reputation of the taxi industry or their cause,” Tory said of a protest. “I really, really hope” the industry sees the city is moving as fast as it can.

No legal action against Uber says Toronto mayor

Taxi drivers said they would seek an injunction against Uber in Toronto, but the city council voted on Wednesday and decided the unions will have to wait. The council says it will not take legal action against Uber at the moment, but will look at the matter again in the summer.
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The latest round of government vs. Uber vs. taxi industry vs. government did little to ease tensions that have been building since Uber made its debut in Ontario during 2014. Taxi drivers once again were vocal in their criticism of the government’s ruling, but the council said that its decision sends Uber a clear message, even if legal action will not be sought right now.

“Our professional advice that we received from our lawyers and regulators was to the effect that we were not going to have the best chance at being successful in an injunction brought at this time,” Mayor John Tory said.

Any application for an injunction, which is a course taxi driver unions want to take, will not be heard until the summer, at least. The city says this sends a message to Uber;

“We are sending a clear message to Uber,” Coun. Janet Davis said. “We are quite prepared and we are directing our staff to launch an injunction at the right time.”

Last year the city voted to regulate the controversial UberX service and since then the situation has got worse, not better. Firstly Uber did not comply with a city request to cease operations until regulations are in place (likely the end of 2016), and then taxi drivers protested the decision to regulate the company, bringing Downtown Toronto to a standstill.

Uber has won some major victories in recent weeks, most notably the vote in Edmonton last week that will see the city legalize the UberX service. Taxi associations are furious at that decision, but Uber will be legal in Edmonton from March 1 if it complies with several city demands.

In many ways, the path to a legalized Uber should be easier in Toronto, because the province of Ontario now has something that others in Canada do not. Aviva Canada’s new ride-sharing auto insurance policy will make its debut this month, giving Uber drivers their first ever legitimate coverage. The Ontario exclusive policy (Aviva will expand it with time) means taxi drivers have one less objection to the illegal UberX service in place.

However, until the city takes decisive action one way or another, the merry go round will keep going.

FSCO approves Aviva Canada ride-sharing policy

The Financial Service Commission of Ontario has granted regulatory approval to Aviva Canada to launch its ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy in the province. The policy is a huge help to controversial ride-sharing company Uber as it gives its drivers their first ever auto insurance coverage. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) described the policy as a first of its kind in Canada.
Aviva Canada
The most interesting result of the FSCO’s decision is that it leaves UberX operatives in Canada’s largest province covered for the first time, but those same drivers are still working in Ontario illegally. That’s because Uber is still yet to receive regulatory permission in the province, in other words the UberX service has not been legalized.
Aviva says it is fulfilling a customer need and filling a space in the market.

“There are a lot of people out there trying to make some extra money, and that’s a great thing, but they’re doing it without the appropriate coverage for themselves and for their passengers as well,” said spokesman Glenn Cooper.

Toronto has recently voted to regulate Uber, but changes have not been implemented yet, while a bill to potentially legalize ride-sharing services in Ontario is still waiting to go before the committees. Champion of that bill, Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, has described Aviva’s policy as a major step forward and urged the province to legalize sharing companies.

“The longer we delay on an overall ride-sharing legislative framework the less help it is for cabbies, for Uber drivers, for customers and I’m worried that situation, that tension, is going to escalate if the province does not act,” he said.

However, the taxi industry remains hugely critical of Uber and opposition to the company is never likely to cease, even if the company is legalized and regulated fairly. Taxi associations have protested Uber and think the company provides illegal and unfair competition, and as such they have also spoke critically of Aviva’s policy.

“We are very concerned that an Aviva announcement that ‘an approved product exists and is available for purchase’ will be misconstrued by politicians to mean ‘20,000 illegal UberX drivers are now insured,’ Toronto Taxi Alliance president Gail Souter and Canadian Taxicab Association president Marc Andre Way wrote in a letter to Aviva.

Aviva Canada released a statement on its media relations page last week saying that it does not endorse Uber or any other ride-sharing company.

Toronto could learn from Edmonton regarding Uber, says Mayor Tory

Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service after a city council vote earlier this week. The move could be an example to other Canadian cities, including Toronto, which itself has already made moves to accept Uber. However, the council is still largely divided on ride-sharing companies in Canada’s largest city, but Toronto Mayor John Tory praised Alberta’s capital for its historic vote.

“What we are trying to do here is exactly what they have done, which is to fashion a bylaw which achieves a balance,” Tory said. “They’ve come up with one answer to that in Edmonton, which we can learn from.”

The city of Toronto was the first to vote favorably for Uber, agreeing to create regulations for the company in October last year. However, regulations and changes to the law that will accommodate UberX have not yet been created, and the U.S. based company has compounded the issue by continuing to operate in Toronto even though the council asked it to halt operations in the city until regulations are created.
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Tory said the challenge for the city is creating a bylaw and then having it passed through the council via a vote. There is still opposition to Uber in the Toronto City Council, with some members siding with the traditional taxi service in a confrontation that is continually looking like a pitch battle. Edmonton’s breakthrough this week could point Toronto in the direction it needs to go to accept Uber, with the Alberta city even getting Uber to comply to some rules.

Indeed, it seems Uber is willing to meet some stipulations if the company feels it is being accommodated by a municipality. For example, the San Francisco giant agreed with the city of Edmonton to stop operations in the area until it is legalized on March 1. It is a stark contrast to the Toronto situation, where Uber decided not to cease operating in the city while the council dallies over what to do next.

Tory has been critical of that stance, but he has voiced again that there is a way forward for the UberX service to be adopted in Toronto. Councillor Jim Karygiannis, a known supporter of the taxi service, is less enthused about Uber and says he is “very concerned” by Tory’s comments:

“I am surprised that the mayor this morning said that we should let council not decide, we should let the legal department decide if we have an injunction or not,” Karygiannis said. “I believe that it’s up to council to decide.”

Edmonton may have trailed a blaze and showed other Canadian cities a viable way to legalize Uber, but Toronto’s path to the same conclusion is expected to take longer. Indeed, a breakthrough may not come until the end of the year, which is when the Toronto licensing staff are expected to make recommendations on how the city could regulate Uber.

Toronto grants Uber taxi brokerage license

Uber Canada has announced that it has been issued a City of Toronto brokerage license, but the city confirmed that the license does not relate to the UberX service.

However, it means that Uber is now operating legally as a taxi brokerage in Canada’s largest city, but ironically its service, UberX, continues to operate without legal regulation. Equally, that means that drivers of the UberX service are operating unlicensed and still without proper auto insurance. The latter of those issues is being solved by Aviva Canada’s upcoming ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy, while the move to name Uber a legal taxi brokerage in Toronto is a step on the path to solving the issue with unlicensed drivers.

Uber first applied for its taxi brokerage license in May, 2015, and an Uber Canada spokesman said last Friday:
“This is another step towards our participation in a comprehensive regulatory solution that includes ride-sharing,” Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the City of Toronto towards new regulations for ride-sharing, which are expected in the coming months.”

Traditional taxi industry representative, who have been the fiercest critics of Uber, criticized the council’s move and said that despite now being a taxi brokerage, the company is still operating outside the law. Tracey Cook, the head of the city’s municipal licensing and standards division, was eager to point out the difference between UberTaxi and UberX.

“For the purposes of dispatching or connecting licensed City of Toronto taxi cabs under UberTaxi, that is lawfully permitted under the taxi cab brokerage license,” Cook said, while confirming that UberX and its drivers are still operating illegally.

Understanding Aviva Canada’s ride-sharing coverage

Aviva Canada changed the insurance landscape with its early January announcement that it would debut a ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy. The coverage is a first of its kind product in Canada and means UberX drivers who have otherwise been driving for the service with unsuitable auto insurance can now have a legitimate policy and work for the company legally.
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Many drivers simply do not know that in their current situation they are probably operating for UberX without viable auto insurance. The company’s own $5 million liability coverage only covers those with proper commercial auto insurance, but such a dedicated policy has never existed until Aviva Canada’s announcement.

It is thought that most of the UberX drivers in Toronto (there are thought to be 20,000) are working for the service using their own personal policy, which would not cover them if they were in a collision. If you are using your personal insurance policy to work with Uber, here is how the province of Ontario classifies a vehicle that needs commercial coverage:

General Exclusion Except for certain Accident Benefits coverage, there is no coverage under this policy if:
The automobile is used to carry explosives or radioactive material; or
The automobile is used as a taxicab, bus, a sightseeing conveyance or to carry paying passengers. However, we don’t consider the following as situations involving carrying paying passengers:

• giving a ride to someone in return for a ride,

• sharing the cost of an occasional trip with others in the automobile;

• carrying a domestic worker hired by you or your spouse;

• occasionally carrying children to or from school activities that are conducted within the educational program;

• carrying current or prospective clients and customers; or

• reimbursing volunteer drivers for their reasonable driving expenses, including gas, vehicle wear and tear and meals.

Uber Launching UberPOOL in Toronto

Ride sharing service Uber is expanding in Toronto despite still receiving plenty of opposition from numerous parties. The U.S. based company announced today that it is launching its uberPOOL service in Canada’s biggest city from January 13 at 2 p.m.

Auto Insurance For UberX Drivers in Ontario
Auto Insurance For UberX Drivers in Ontario

The uberPOOL service builds on the UberX ride sharing model, allowing customers to spread the cost of a ride by pooling with other riders going on the same route. UberX works more like a traditional taxi service, shuttling one or a group of passengers with the same destination. UberPOOL works by letting customers who would otherwise not know each other pool together on the same route to spread cost, making it as much as 30 per cent more affordable than UberX.

“Our vision for uberPOOL is simple,” the statement said. “We want to reduce the number of cars on the road, while providing Torontonians with transportation that’s more affordable than ever. When two people share their ride, that’s one less car on the road and a cheaper fare for both riders.”

The service will be available between Jane Street and Victoria Park Avenue up to Highway 401, including the Yonge corridor north of the 401 to Finch Avenue between Bathurst Street and Bayview Avenue. Uber says that the service will cost $4 for a minimum fare, with up to two occupants allowed along the same route. If a second passenger joins the route they pay a minimum extra $1, but if no extra passenger arrives, the original occupant who selected the service will get a solo ride at the reduced uberPOOL price.

In recent months Uber has won numerous victories in Toronto, despite still facing fierce opposition and still effectively operating in the city illegally. The city council voted in November to legalize UberX by drawing up legitimate regulations for the service, expected to be completed this year. However, Uber has angered politicians by continuing to operate unregulated in the meantime, while taxi associations are protesting the service for its practices and the threat Uber poses to the traditional taxi industry.

Last week Aviva Canada, the second largest auto insurance provider in Ontario, announced that it will be launching a ride-sharing oriented auto insurance policy next month. The coverage would be for those working less than 20 hours with Uber and other services, potentially clearing up a problem Uber has faced with drivers operating without adequate auto insurance protection.

Taxi driver hands in license in wake of Uber competition

In the midst of all the fighting between taxi associations, local government, and drive sharing company Uber, it is perhaps hard to forget that there are personal stories lost in the power struggle. Khalil Talke highlights the plight the taxi industry is in and points to a reason why so many are looking to join the ranks of UberX as a driver… some 20,000 are already working for the company in Toronto alone.

Mr. Talke has been working as a taxi operative in Toronto for the last 27 years, but he says the advent of Uber and spiraling operating costs have become too much and he has turned in his license. Speaking to CBC, he said that the cost of licensing is too high, while he also cannot afford to put specialized winter tires on his car, as is required by Ontarian law.

Taxi Driver Hands In License In Wake Of Uber Competition
Taxi Driver Hands In License In Wake Of Uber Competition

The differing costs for drivers is thought to be a major reason why so many new drivers are opting for UberX instead of traditional taxi services. Becoming an Uber driver takes minutes and costs little, while becoming a taxi driver is painstaking. There only limited taxi licenses handed out each year, but more prohibitive is the cost of licensing, which means many new drivers start their careers having already spent hundreds of dollars.

Talke said he turned in his license, “Because we are not making money. If you can’t make money, you can’t run your life.”

He said he is now considering working for UberX, but while he shares his admiration for the company with many, he also shares the worry too. Discussing UberX, he said: “Business-wise it’s okay, I like it. Their model is okay,” Talke said of UberX. “But guess what? I don’t know how they are going to regulate this company. They haven’t been regulated anywhere in the world.”

Uber has been widely lauded for its business model, but has found excessive push back from governments and taxi associations around the world. The company is unregulated in Toronto, meaning all of the UberX drivers are essentially operating illegally. The city voted to regulate the company starting in 2016, but at the moment Uber continues in its unregulated state and is flying in the face of requests to halt operations until regulations are in place.

Other Canadian cities are expected to follow with their own regulations, but at the moment many have instructed law enforcement to go after drivers of the service. That is not a tactic being employed in Toronto, where Mayor John Tory said it would be a waste of law enforcement time and money.