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Feature/Profile

Have a plan for snow emergencies, Toronto reminds residents – including ground transportation

Photo: RWN

Torontonians who paid surcharges for ridesharing services during the January 17th snowstorm are not entitled to any form of subsidy or refund, the City of Toronto told Road Warrior News. RWN received reports that ridesharing firms were surchaging up to five times the usual rate during the storm.

“There is no rebate program for passengers who have accepted these fares,” Mike Hajmasy of Toronto’s media office wrote in an email.

It’s important for all families, individuals, businesses and property owners to have their own emergency response plan to help them respond and recover from the emergency: “Being prepared for an emergency starts with having a plan,” Hajmasy says.

At rush hour during Monday’s massive snowstorm, Uber and Lyft were surcharging Torontonians trying to get home by a factor of five or more, according to Behrouz Khamseh, head of the Taxi Owners and Operators Association.

“I picked up a man at Yonge and Bloor who wanted to go to Yonge and Finch – Uber quoted him $107.00,” Khamseh told Road Warrior News. “There was no subway service, no busses, the streets were full of people who wanted to get home to their kids and their families.”

Another fare told Khamseh her father had been charged $70.00 to travel from Bathurst and Wilson to Keele and Finch.

Taxi Owners and Operators head Behrouz Khamseh Photo: RWN

With his fares’ agreement, Khamseh picked up as many flags as he could along the way and allowed them to split payment: “I drove from 1pm to 1am and did the best I could. But why is Toronto allowing passengers to be gouged for money in an emergency situation?”

“What is Toronto’s Emergency Plan for pedestrians?” Khamseh asks. “What is the plan to get people home on a day like Monday?”

Toronto’s Licensing of Vehicles-for-Hire Bylaw regulates taxicabs, limousines and private transportation companies (PTCs). The bylaw sets taxicab rates for street hail and for trips originating from cabstands along with flat airport fares for taxicabs.

“The bylaw also sets a minimum fare of $3.25 for each PTC ride. Other than these rates, the City is not engaged in the setting of fares for taxicabs or PTCs. This means that taxicab brokerages are permitted to set rates above the City-regulated rate when the taxicab is booked through an app and PTCs are allowed to set rates above the minimum fare (subject to ensuring that the rates are clearly communicated, have been accepted by the passenger and passengers are provided a detailed receipt). There is no rebate program for passengers who have accepted these fares,” Hajmasy said.

The City’s Emergency Plan details the methods in which the City mobilizes its resources during a crisis and ensures all City organizations, emergency response services and key agencies are fully aware of their respective roles and responsibilities during an emergency. The goal is to respond and reduce the impact of a public emergency and restore the municipality to a normal state as soon as possible.

The Emergency Plan makes provisions for the earliest possible coordinated response to an emergency, an understanding of the personnel and resources available to the City, and recognition that additional expertise and resources can be called upon if required. It is equally important for all families, individuals, businesses and property owners to have their own emergency response plan to help them respond and recover from the emergency. Being prepared for an emergency starts with having a plan, Toronto stresses.