NEWS

City council to debate taxi reform, Uber at meeting

04/02/2015 06:53 EDT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 EDT
City councillors will debate reforms to Toronto's rapidly-changing taxi business during its Thursday meeting.

Council is trying to figure out what to do about apps such as Uber, that are disrupting the traditional taxi business. Council will also consider expanding the number of taxi licenses it issues.

Both are hot topics for taxi drivers. On Wednesday, dozens of cab drivers spent most of the day at city council waiting to hear the debate, only to leave disappointed when council voted to delay the discussion.

Sikander Kashmiri was one of the taxi drivers in attendance and said he's most concerned with the plan to add additional licences — something that could cut into the value of the one he recently purchased for about $250,000.

"I sold my house, I bought the plate. Now I am paying off my debt and my plate is going to be nothing, nil," Kashmiri told CBC News.

Toronto has some 5,000 taxi cabs on the road, but taxi licences are split. Traditional licences, like the one Kashmiri now owns, can be shared among multiple drivers, allowing owners to profit 24/7. Ambassador licences, on the other hand, can only be driven by the licence-holder.

The city has considered doing away with the two tiers of licences since 2013.

What will city do about Uber?

Meanwhile, many cab drivers are also wondering what the city will do about Uber, the San Francisco-based ride-sharing service that recently launched its UberX service in Toronto. The app essentially allows anyone to work as a cab driver.

The city has sought an injunction against UberX, and city officials have warned that people who drive for the service are violating its bylaws. But that hasn't stopped the app from growing in popularity.

Mayor John Tory has said apps such as Uber can't be ignored, and admits it is "going to be disruptive to the ground transportation industry as it exists today."

But other councillors are hoping for a more hardline approach, including banning the app from all city-issued smartphones.

Council is set to begin debate on the taxi issue at 2 p.m. 

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