Taxi drivers are asking for advance payment to go to 'dangerous' areas of Toronto
A seemingly endless wave of violent crime may have some would-be transit riders opting for other means of getting around the city, and even Toronto's taxi drivers are on edge as shocking headlines continue to be published daily.
Riders opting for the old-fashioned mode of taxis to get around town are finding some drivers reluctant to accept fares to particular areas of the city without a cash advance payment, a scenario playing out even for well-dressed senior citizens.
blogTO reader Joseph Bourgeois attempted to catch a taxi from Church and Wellesley on Friday, and on multiple attempts with different cab operators, was asked by drivers to pay an advance fee before accepting his short trip to Sherbourne and Dundas.
"Upon catching a Beck Taxi, the driver wanted a $12 cash advance to go to the area," Bourgeois tells blogTO, adding that the driver "said it was too dangerous."
"I flagged down a second taxi, a Co-Op cab, and he wanted a $10 cash advance to go to Sherbourne and Dundas, citing the same reason," says Bourgeois, stating that the normal taxi fare for that distance is only about $7.
Bourgeois says that at the time of his attempted cab pick-ups, he was "dressed quite well" and, at the age of 73, feels he was misjudged by drivers.
And if you're asking yourself, "is this even legal?" well, it turns out that it actually is well within the confines of the law for drivers to request a cash advance from passengers as a pre-condition for the fare.
Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Beck Taxi, explains to blogTO that in 2016 "the City of Toronto changed regulations to allow taxi drivers to ask for a deposit in advance of up to $25."
Hubbard says this is often a blanket approach applied by drivers to all passengers rather than a form of discrimination. Hubbard remarks that her own grandmother — aged 92 — was asked to pay a cab driver in advance just the other day.
"Many ask every customer they pick up who is not paying in the app, and they are allowed to do that as per the By-law," says Hubbard.
Hubbard acknowledges that "Sadly, we've seen a huge increase in people attempting to exit without paying. These are tough times for everyone, and taxi drivers who have experienced non-payment often ask for the deposit."
Though passengers may feel offended or even judged by this kind of request, Hubbard reminds all that it's all laid out in "The passenger and driver bill of rights posted on the tariff card on the back of the passenger seat."
The City and TTC have responded to the ongoing rash of violent crime by boosting police presence on public transit, though many critics argue that this measure fails to address the root causes, including underfunded mental health care.
Drivers hesitant to accept fares seem to be just another byproduct of these unaddressed issues and add to the stigmatization of already-marginalized communities.
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