5 things to know about the new Toronto taxi rules
Catching a taxi in Toronto is going to become a very different experience over the next decade. After more than three years of talks and consultations with cab drivers and company owners, city council past a raft of changes that will result in a fleet of safer, wheelchair-accessible, hybrid vehicles plying the streets.
Many of the changes affect drivers and cab companies - there's a new license that all drivers must hold by 2024 - but some of the new rules trickle down to customers. Here are five things to know about the taxicab industry review.
TORONTO IS SWITCHING TO ACCESSIBLE CABS
City council voted to transition all taxi plate owners to a new license, the Toronto Taxicab License, by 2024. The new license requires all holders to own a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, which will mean an end to the current taxi fleet. A motion by Councillor Joe Mihevc asked city staff to report on the possibility of a standard accessible taxi design for the city, like in New York City and London.
YOU SOIL IT, YOU CLEAN IT
Passengers who vomit or otherwise "soil" the back of a taxi (use your imagination) will be fined $25 to cover the cost of cleaning. It's not clear when the fee will become legal and it remains to be seen how drivers might reasonably collect the money, especially if the passenger doing the soiling is drunk, alone, or paying cash. The cost is deigned to reflect the average fare in Toronto.
YOU MIGHT HAVE TO PAY IN ADVANCE
To discourage ride-and-run customers and would-be robbers, the new rules allow drivers to ask for a maximum of $25 up front if they deem it necessary. The money can be paid in cash, on a credit or debit card, or via a card pre-authorization, similar to pre-payment at a gas station. More than 70% of drivers believe taking a fare in advance will improve safety.
TAXIS MUST HAVE SNOW TIRES
This one is surprising, mainly because somehow it wasn't the law until now. A motion moved by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker and adopted by a vote of 31-12 now requires all taxis operating in Toronto to have a set of snow tires. The city will decide on a date each year when all vehicles must be fully winterized.
TAXIS ARE SWITCHING TO HYBRID (SOMEHOW)
Right now, just 10% of licensed taxicabs in Toronto are alternative fuel vehicles, but that will change in the next few years, apparently. The new rules require all taxis to be replaced with alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles at the end of the mandatory five-year life cycle. Confusingly, wheelchair-accessible vehicles (i.e. all new Toronto taxis) are exempt because no cars that fit the city's criteria are currently available, which is one of the reasons Toronto is looking at standardizing its taxi vehicles.
The staff report estimates $18.8 million will be saved annually in fuel and annual greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 30,000 tonnes of CO2.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.