Monday, December 11, 2023
Toronto City Council chambers
Opinion/ColumnRide Hailing newsTaxi industry news

Taxi, Limo, Rideshare, Vehicle for Hire, Private Transportation Company…as the terms get more complicated, concepts get more confused

RWN/Taxi News publisher Rita Smith.

Mayor Olivia Chow’s admirable attempt to cap the number of rideshare vehicles cruising city streets perversely resulted in a halt in the licensing of drivers for Accessible Taxis, perhaps the driver category needed most urgently in Toronto.

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. Ouch.

Click to read MLS’ November 3rd notice to brokerages

From: Marcia Stoltz <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, November 3, 2023 12:31 PM
To: Marcia Stoltz <[email protected]>
Subject: VfH (taxi/limo) driver applications now being accepted

Good afternoon,

This message is being sent to all active taxicab brokerages and limousine service companies.

As directed by City Council, starting October 13, the City had paused accepting new vehicle-for-hire (taxicabs and limousines) and private transportation company (Uber and Lyft) driver licences. After reviewing the Council direction, the City has capped the number of vehicle-for-hire driver licences to 6,772.

Starting November 2, the City has resumed accepting new vehicle-for-hire driver licence applications through the City’s Licence and Permit Online Application portal. Only online applications will be accepted. The City has also simplified the application process by removing the requirement to provide a copy of the driving record abstract.

When an applicant has met all the requirements and paid the non-refundable application fee, their application will be moved onto a vehicle-for-hire driver waitlist. Once a licence is available, the applicant will be emailed an invoice for the accessibility fund and licensing fee. The invoice will need to be paid within 15 days, after which the licence will be issued and sent by mail. Failure to pay would mean that the application is deemed abandoned and cancelled.

City staff are in the process of developing a system for those on the waitlist to check where they are in queue online. 

The pause continues for private transportation company driver licences. Staff are currently determining how to implement and operationalize this Council direction for private transportation company drivers.

More information for taxicab and limousine drivers is available at Taxicab or Limousine Driver (Vehicle-for-Hire Driver).


Marcia Stoltz

Manager – Vehicle for Hire

“What is this, ‘Vehicles for Hire’? Abdul Mohamoud of Co-op Cabs asked me in the middle of a call in 2020. “Why don’t they just say ‘Taxi’ or ‘rideshare’? We’ve been calling Taxis ‘Taxis’ for a hundred years. Suddenly, they are not ‘Taxis’ anymore they are ‘Vehicles for Hire’?”

I had to laugh at his practical assessment. It’s true, people have been calling Taxis “Taxis” for a hundred years – even longer, I’m sure. People who drive them for a living call them “Taxis” and people who hail them on the street call them “Taxis.” Calling a Taxi a “Vehicle for Hire” confirms we have reached a whole new level of pretentiousness in a world that desperately needs more plain language.

When Uber arrived in Toronto, a new term was needed to describe the new “rideshare” business model. Instead of the dedicated vehicles with roof lights, obvious paint patterns and 24/7 commercial insurance represented by Taxi, rideshare vehicles had no roof light, any and all paint colours, and personal insurance with a “wrap around” policy.  

To add to the confusion, rideshares are also referred to as “Private Transportation Companies,” or PTCs. By dictionary definition, Taxis are also private transportation companies, just not the way Toronto uses the term.

In 2016, Toronto had capped approval of Taxi plates at 5,500 but quickly allowed more than 80,000 rideshare vehicles (or PTCs or VFHs, according to your definition). The number of rideshares has since been adjusted to 54,620.

Discussing 5,500 legal Taxis in the same breath as 55,000 rideshare vehicles gives rise to some painfully obvious questions, such as: how could a city which claims it wants to reduce emissions permit 55,000 rideshare vehicles to cruise the streets?

How could a city which is working to reduce gridlock permit 55,000 rideshare vehicles to cruise the streets (empty about half of the time spent cruising)?

Well, clearly it can’t. If Toronto is serious about reducing emissions or gridlock, it can’t allow 55,000 rideshares on the street. The number of rideshares must be capped; or Toronto must abandon the “Net Zero” fiction.

Enter the term, “Vehicle for Hire.” In April, 2023, Toronto didn’t have 5,500 legal Taxis and 78,000 rideshare vehicles. It had 85,000 Vehicles for Hire, don’t you know, and what applies to one category apparently must now apply to both, right? Toronto is a fair and equitable city.

At Council on October 13th, astonished City Councillors and Mayor Olivia Chow tried to discuss “Net Zero” emissions, only to learn that Toronto had approved unleashing tens of thousands of rideshare vehicles onto the streets AT THE EXACT SAME TIME IT WAS TRYING TO REDUCE EMISSIONS AND GRIDLOCK.

Kudos to Mayor Chow, Councillors Bravo, Perks and others who called the previous Council out for its hypocrisy in talking about emissions while refusing to cap the number of rideshare vehicles. Chow showed leadership in capping the number of rideshare vehicles “at the present number.” (“The present number” on October 13th was assumed to be somewhere around 52,000; the number provided to Taxi News on November 7 was 54,620.)

You’d think it would be a no-brainer, to put a cap on the number of rideshare vehicles which had, up until now, never been capped.

The number of Taxi plates in Toronto have always been capped, most recently at 5,500. One metal Taxi plate is screwed onto one Taxi vehicle and can’t be moved without permission. The number of rideshare vehicles was NEVER capped, before October 13th 2023.

So, apparently thinking went, if you leave the 5,500 cap on Taxis alone but cap rideshare vehicles while staff figure out what the ideal number of rideshare vehicles for Toronto is, we’d be all good, right?

No.  It can’t be that simple. Directed by Council to cap the number of “Vehicles for Hire,” MLS staff capped the number of Taxi drivers, as well. Taxi News first learned of this when a brokerage looking for licensed Accessible Taxi drivers couldn’t hire any, because Toronto had stopped issuing Taxi driver licenses.

So, Chow’s valiant attempt at capping the number of rideshare vehicles cruising Toronto’s streets resulted in a halt in the licensing of drivers for Accessible Taxis, one of the most urgently needed categories of drivers….wait, what?

A flurry of emails and updates has occurred since November 3rd; I’ll post the latest staff response in its entirety in order to reduce the risk I’ll create further confusion by trying to interpret it.

At the end of the day, I suggest, Toronto was better off with distinct categories and clearly defined terms. Taxis are one group; Limos are another. Rideshare is another. The conglomerate term “Vehicle for Hire” only causes confusion, and should be dispensed with. Same with “Private Transportation Company.” The last two terms technically apply to every category and do nothing but sow confusion (which might actually have been the intent, under John Tory).

MLS Reply to Taxi News’ questions

Question 1: Traditionally, Toronto placed the cap on the number of Taxi PLATES, not Taxi drivers’ licenses. Was any research done on the switch to capping drivers’ licenses? For example, that it might create a shortage of Accessible drivers? This seems like a major policy shift. On what research was it based? 

This is in response to City Council’s motion on October 11, 2023, which directed staff to place the cap on the number of vehicle-for-hire (taxicab and limousine) driver’s licences and private transportation company (for example, Uber and Lyft) driver’s licences. Here is the motion:

1. In order to manage current levels of greenhouse gas emissions in Vehicle-for-Hire industry, City Council implement a policy to maintain the net total of vehicle-for-hire and private transportation company driver’s licenses at no greater than current levels, as of October 12, 2023, with the exception of zero-emission vehicles, until such time as the Executive Director, Municipal Licensing and Standards, reports back on a comprehensive framework, including emissions, congestion and transit impacts, for the Vehicle-for-Hire industry and the appropriate licensing levels for taxicabs and  limousine, as well as private transportation company vehicles, including consultation with the industry on fleet composition, by no later than fourth quarter of 2024.

Question 2: What is the current estimate of Rideshare licenses? If there is not a solid number, please provide a range or estimate. Council kept referring to the number “52,000” on Oct. 13, however, the number provided to Taxi News by MLS on April 13 2023 was 79,537 rideshare vehicles. 

There are two numbers – number of private transportation company (PTC) driver’s licences vs. number of drivers:

  1. Number of PTC driver’s licence: Please note, the number of PTC driver’s licence includes:
    1. drivers who are also licensed as taxicab or limousine drivers and driving for PTCs, and
    2. drivers who drive for multiple PTCs. These drivers need to get separate PTC driver licences for each company they drive for.

Therefore, the number of PTC driver’s licences does not indicate the number of PTC drivers in Toronto, as some drivers may hold more than one licences. It has also been seen that many PTC drivers may hold annual licences but decide to drive part of the year or part-time only. As of November 1, 2023 the number of PTC driver’s licences was 86,321.  

  1. Number of PTC drivers in Toronto: This is the number of PTC drivers driving in Toronto. As of November 1, 2023 there were 54,620 PTC drivers.