Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Taxi past cannot be resurrected, Pellier says

VFH REVIEW, PUBLIC CONSULTATIONS

CITY OF TORONTO

Submission by Peter Pellier

For the record, I was a member of the Mississauga taxi industry as an owner-operator, and following Uber’s emergence in 2012, along with my colleagues, watched in horror as the company ran roughshod over longstanding regulations.  In the process, both our livelihoods and our investments were significantly diminished, due, in large part, to the utter failure of our regulators to enforce their respective by-laws.

For decades, the key to our success from the standpoint of customer service and the ability to earn a decent living lay in controlling the number of cabs, as well as establishing a set tariff predicated on distance and time.  Demonstrating breathtaking defiance, Uber willfully broke all the rules by allowing an unlimited number of affiliated drivers; by setting its own rates aimed at undercutting taxi fares; and by short shrifting the screening and training of drivers.

In fairness, Uber excelled at marketing its brand, including the development of a handy-dandy app.  In the absence of meaningful enforcement, Uber grew its business at our considerable expense.

In relatively short order, a significant shift occurred whereby Uber was servicing a lion’s share of the VFH business, especially during the period when they operated in direct contravention of local taxi by-laws.  For cabbies, certainly in major urban centres, the jig was up, as both revenues and plate values plummeted – those selfsame plates our regulators openly portrayed as being our pensions.

In the September/2015 edition of The Walrus, a perceptive article appeared by writer, Jonathan Kay, concluding that taxis and Uber cannot co-exist; that for one to survive, the other must die.  Nearly nine years later, with the cab biz a shadow of its former self, Monsieur Kay’s prognostication has come to pass.  Just like gas-powered vehicles are being replaced by electric and hybrid modes of propulsion, so, too, are taxis being eclipsed by so-called ridesharing services, led by Uber. 

For what it’s worth, the Ottawa taxi industry recently won its class-action lawsuit against the City, which was deemed negligent by the presiding judge for not enforcing its own by-law.  It remains to be seen whether or not compensation will be forthcoming.  What we do know is the decision, while welcome, will not hearken a return to a bygone era when taxis were the people’s choice.

In conclusion, the current public consultation, ultimately, is futile.  The past – one where cabbies, who proved dedicated and diligent, thrived cannot possibly be resurrected, not even by the City of Toronto.

Thank you.

Peter D. Pellier

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