September 11, 2018 7:36 am

Proposed changes to London’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw heads to city committee

In this file photo, The Uber logo is seen in front of protesting taxi drivers at the courthouse Tuesday, February 2, 2016 in Montreal.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Londoners are invited to city hall Tuesday to voice their opinion on proposed changes to the city’s vehicle-for-hire bylaw.

Changes include reducing regulation fees and allowing taxi brokers to set their own fares, but the most controversial item has been the removal of a cap on accessible and regular taxi license plates.

READ MORE: London lawyer seeks changes to vehicle-for-hire bylaw

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According to city staff, removing a cap on plates would give power to the drivers, who currently have to rent from license-plate owners.

With Uber drivers outnumbering regular taxis, accessible taxis and limousines by more than four to one, a spokesperson for the London Taxi Association feels the city should place a cap on something else.

“In the city of Kingston they’ve actually capped the ride-share companies because they’ve seen the detrimental effect that it does have,” said Roger Caranci. “They’re thinking about doing it in other major centres across North America because of the problems it has created.”

Coun. Phil Squire, on the other hand, said he intends to listen to what the public wants.

“I think [the public] have sort of spoken with the services they’re using. They’re not afraid to use Uber, they’re happy to use Uber. They like that model,” said Squire.

READ MORE: Committee to hear Londoners’ ride-hailing bylaw concerns

Meanwhile, when it comes to setting cab fares, city staff said giving taxi brokers the freedom to set their own fares would foster a flexible and market-driven industry, but Caranci doesn’t think that would be the case.

“There’s a reason for the prices to be where they are. We are not higher than the ride-share companies. The stories are well documented as to how expensive they can be.”

Currently, taxi fares are set by the city, while Uber is allowed to set its own fares for rides in London.

A lack of consensus from the taxi industry has made it difficult to come to an agreement on proposed changes to the bylaw, said Squire.

“Uber came to us with a pretty uniform position. They said ‘This is what we would like to enter the market and here’s what we can deal with,'” he said.

“Now we’re going to try to deal with the taxi industry, that quite frankly up until now has had significantly different views among different owners and different drivers as to what would work for them,” said Squire.

WATCH: Uber suspends operations in Edmonton as vehicle-for-hire bylaw takes effect

In the end, he said, it’s up to the taxi industry on how they want to move forward.

“Do they want to evolve with a 21st-century world, or do they want to try to stay where they are?”

“If they try to stay where they are, I don’t think they’re going to have much success,” said Squire.

Late last year, the city’s taxi industry said their business had fallen by 40 per cent since Uber was given the go-ahead by council.

Tuesday meeting kicks off at 4 p.m.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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