TORONTO – Mayor John Tory is urging the city’s budget chief to freeze taxi licensing fees to provide some “modest relief” to drivers and create “a viable and equitable competitive environment” in the city.
The city is poised to raise fees on January 1, but Tory’s letter to Councillor Gary Crawford suggested a freeze to provide some “modest relief” to taxi drivers who are losing business to ride-hailing service Uber.
“The taxi industry presently finds itself in a particularly unique and challenging position,” stemming partly from new competition, the letter adds.
The taxi industry has blasted Uber as an unregulated and illegal business, and demanded Tory take greater steps to either regulate the service or simply oust it from city streets.
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Beck Taxi spokesperson Kristine Hubbard expressed gratitude toward Tory but suggested they city has more work to do.
“The intention to freeze increases on licensing fees is a first step in acknowledging taxi drivers in Toronto are facing undue financial burdens and are being asked to compete against an illegal operator,” she said in a statement.
The taxi-vs-Uber battle most recently culminated in a massive protest that saw as many as 2,000 cabs converge on the downtown core, creating crippling gridlock throughout the city. The protest had Tory promising to introduce new regulations to create “a level playing field” in early 2016.
On November 1, the city dropped base taxi fares $1 to $3.25.
A Toronto taxi licence currently costs $780 per year, one of the highest rates in North America. The proposed 2016 hike would raise the fee to $800.