Toronto, ON (Oct. 11, 2023): In the face of mounting evidence that the deregulation of the vehicle-for-hire industry under John Tory’s administration has had a detrimental impact on the livelihoods of drivers, congestion, the environment and public transit, Toronto City Council voted 16-7 to pause the licensing of new ride-hail drivers until staff reports back on how many vehicle-for-hire drivers are needed to satisfy demand while meeting City policy objectives.
“This vote speeds up our work to reduce emissions from the sector in a number of ways,” says JJ Fueser of Ridefair Toronto. “It protects our efforts to restore TTC ridership at a critical moment, will reduce the time that taxis and ride-hail drivers spend driving empty, and begins to address one of the biggest barriers to electrification: just how precarious this work has become.”
City-commissioned data estimates that 33% of emissions from vehicles-for-hire are now produced by unpaid “deadheading,” or time spent without passengers in the car.
While the number of taxicabs in Toronto has remained capped, Council allowed ride-hailing companies to determine the number and type of vehicles to put on Toronto roads in 2016. Pre-pandemic, this number surged to 90,000, comparable to New York City, a city about three times the size of Toronto. Research showed drivers were making an average of $8/hr, nearly half of Ontario’s minimum wage. At the same time, the TTC lost an estimated 31 million trips to Uber and Lyft, the worst outcome from an environmental perspective.
“We need to make sure ride-hailing complements public transit rather than replacing it,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen of TTC Riders. “This pause ensures we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past while work on a balanced framework for the sector moves forward.”
Council also approved amendments introduced at the City’s Economic and Community Development Committee last month aimed at addressing barriers to electrification faced by drivers. The amendments came after drivers raised concerns they would be forced to purchase expensive electric vehicles before the City’s infrastructure is ready to support the electrification of the sector.
“This amendment is key to lowering emissions,” says Earla Phillips, a long-time Uber and Lyft driver and the founder of the Rideshare Drivers’ Association of Ontario. “There is no way that drivers can afford to transition to EVs if we can’t even earn enough to meet our most basic needs.”
Toronto’s Council signals a return to evidence-based decision-making after nearly a decade of unprecedented lobbying and public relations by tech platforms. “After eight years, it is great to see Council taking back decision-making from suppliers,” says Fueser. “We can all expect a better, more equitable outcome that way.”