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Toronto’s Bandit cabs are “very third-world”

No metal Toronto plate, no 10 centimeter-high door numbers, no stickers, no emergency amber light, and no meter….a real Taxi driver would be fined hundreds of dollars for driving without City regalia. Bandit cabs are not monitored by Licensing and Standards. Photo: Jafar Mirsalari

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Update 8:30a.m. October 23rd: following a survey of readers and others on October 22nd, Taxi News agrees that the term “Gypsy cab” is considered offensive to some people. Therefore we will use the term “Bandit cab” to describe non-licensed drivers using unmarked personal vehicles to transport passengers for compensation. We are still working to find/create a term to describe thieves using unmarked personal vehicles not for the purpose of providing transportation, but in order to steal/con/rip-off unsuspecting residents by POSING as Taxi drivers. Suggestions welcome, email roadwarriornews@rogers.com.

Mirsalari indicated that he prefers the word “thieves” in his quotes, so we have updated those, too.

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“It’s very third-world,” veteran Taxi driver Jafar Mirsalari says of the proliferation of illegal, unmarked cars picking up paying passengers in Toronto in 2022. While unlicensed or “Bandit cabs” have long been common in less developed nations, they were virtually unheard of in Toronto until recent years.

Mirsalari forwarded to Taxi News photos of a personal vehicle with no Taxi plate, no plate numbers on the door or the trunk, and no branded paint job. However, the otherwise unmarked Honda did have a small, temporary plastic “TAXI” sign on the roof as it drove north on the Don Valley Parkway on October 21st.

Earlier in the week, Toronto resident Saja Kilani was approached by a teen-aged boy who said his “taxi driver” would not accept cash, and asked the woman to let him use her credit card with the promise of repayment. Kilani shared her story with media including the CBC and CP24 in an effort to warn others of the scam. However, none of the media coverage noted the fact that the vehicle in question was not a Taxi: it was a completely unmarked personal vehicle, apparently operated by a con man.

“The thieving cab on the Parkway had NONE of the items required by Licensing,” Mirsalari said. “No amber ‘Emergency’ light, and none of the stickers distributed by Licensing.

“Real Taxis are not even allowed to use magnetic signs of any kind. Our metal plates are required to be actually screwed right into the trunk of the car. Does anyone notice cars like this Honda cab, driving with nothing but a temporary plastic roof sign?”

On a real Taxi, Toronto’s metal plate must be screwed (not magnetted) to the rear bumper. Missing stickers can result in steep fines. Gypsy cabs, on the other hand, are not inspected by Licensing. Photo: Jafar Mirsalari

Taxi News contacted Toronto’s Licensing Division, which replied by saying that “The Toronto Police Service (TPS) responds to issues of fraud and scam. We recommend that you please contact TPS for information on what is being done about taxicab scams in Toronto.”

The idea that the vehicles in question are not, in fact, Taxis, is a large part of the problem, says Mirsalari.

“Why are the media stories calling these things ‘Taxis’?” he asks. “They aren’t Taxis. That’s the point.”

Mirsalari has been a professional Taxi driver in Toronto for 35 years and recalls vividly the 2015 press conference in which John Tory stated that there was no way to prevent ridesharing vehicles in the city “because there are already so many here, we could do nothing to stop them, we had to legalize them,” Mirsalari laughs ruefully. “What kind of politician says ‘There is nothing we can do to enforce the law’?

“But thieving cabs like the Honda on the DVP, they aren’t even rideshare. They are personal vehicles, offering rides to strangers for cash. And people are now so used to unmarked rideshare cars, they get into them not knowing what they are. It’s very third-world, it is not something I ever thought we’d see in Toronto.

“And they are everywhere now.”

Taxi News contacted the office of Mayor John Tory for comment, however, no response has been received at time of posting.