taxi drivers toronto

Toronto taxi drivers continue to illegally refuse short rides

It doesn't matter how many people are clamouring for a ride at the cab stand — taxi drivers in the City of Toronto are not allowed to refuse passengers based on how far (or how not far) they're going.

And yet, despite numerous police crackdowns, warnings and even the loss of one young woman's life, this practice continues to plague Toronto commuters.

I had the pleasure of trying to get a ride home from Union Station late Easter Sunday while toting luggage and a massively heavy bag of food from my parents' house.

It's normally faster to jump in one of the cabs lined up outside the station than it is to wait for an Uber or Lyft, so that's what I decided to do — but it was a busy night in Toronto and clearly, the cabbies had options.

Why take someone a few minutes west when you could hold out for someone whose ride would produce a far heftier bill (and tip)? I assume that's the logic, but can't say for certain. All I know is that I had to fib about where I was going to get in a cab at all.

The first waiting cab driver I walked up to rolled down his window to yell "WHERE YOU GOING?" and rolled it right back up without another word when I told him my address (normally a 5-15 minute drive, depending on traffic).

A second cab driver waved me away and gestured to the taxis behind him. "Those guys can help you," he said before asking another man where he was headed.

I told a third driver that I was going to North York and he let me hop in. When I changed my destination he seemed annoyed and demanded that I pay cash (which was more than fine by me).

I can't say if that driver would have refused me, had I given him the right address upfront, but two others did before him — and that's illegal.

It's also surprisingly common despite potential penalties of up to $5,000 for repeat offences.

"Taxicabs are not permitted to refuse a fare, regardless of the distance someone is travelling," says City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross.

"Anyone who is refused service by a licenced cab can file a complaint by calling 311."

To file a complaint you'll need to have details such as the date, time and location of your refusal. Most important, says Ross, is the taxi plate number: It's "usually a 4-digit number found on the side or back of the cab."

City bylaws do state that cabs can refuse fares based on where they're going, but only if a customer asks to be taken to "a remote place which the driver reasonably believes to be unsafe."

Taxi drivers may also refuse service to potential passengers who literally owe them money from running out on previous taxi bills or "if they are unduly obnoxious or abusive."

It might still happen (a lot, based on what people say via Twitter) but at least there's the recourse of reporting cabbies who continuously break the rules — or avoiding them altogether, thanks to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

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