The Taxi Driversí Report
The Emancipation of the Taxi Industry in Oshawa
Oshawaís Best Opportunity to Create a Superior Taxi Service Industry
Responsibility Produces Superiority
The Emancipation of the Taxi Industry in Oshawa
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Executive Summary 2
Purpose of This Report 4
The Costs 5
The Best Taxi Service in the World 6
Oshawaís Taxi Industry 7
The Taxi Industry, Today and Tomorrow 8
The Requirements for a Taxi Driverís Licence 10
Monitoring of the Industry 13
"Responsible Driver and Operator" Program 14
A Taxi Commission 15
The Priority Waiting List 17
The Ratio of Taxis to the Population 18
Eligibility and the Priority Waiting List 19
The Willing of Plates to Estates 22
The Register of Leasing and Transfers 23
The Emancipation of the Taxi Industry in Oshawa
Oshawaís Best Opportunity to Create a Superior Taxi Service Industry
This proposal has been carefully constructed to be of the most benefit to the community and the industry. Although it does advocate a movement towards a change in the present vehicle licencing structure, it does so in a controlled manner which will allow those now holding a licence(s) and all other participants to continue to operate with minimal disruption to the industry or the community.
In short, the following changes are being proposed:
Increase the requirements to receive a Taxi Driverís Licence. (Completion of Taxi Driverís Course at Durham College) Raise the standards by requiring training and commitment.
Increase the monitoring of the taxi industryís daily operations. (More inspections, safety checks, by-law enforcement, comment phone line.) Raise the standard of the industry. Make the industry responsible for its performance. Weed out the poor participants.
Creation of a "Responsible Driver" program to promote drivers and operators who will perform at a higher level for their industry and community.
Correct the requirements to receive a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís License. Make it possible and probable that qualified and experienced drivers will receive Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences from the City. Award the responsibility of operating a taxi vehicle to the drivers.
Eventually close the Priority Waiting List to new applicants. Base the criteria for eligibility for a taxi vehicle licence on training and experience. The eventual termination of the "Priority Waiting List". Establish a taxi industry that will allow qualified and responsible drivers to have the opportunity to advance to owner/operators and to participate in a more meaningful way.
Eventual reduction of the 1/1500 ratio incrementally once it is determined that the entry requirements are sufficient to produce the required productive balance of cars to the level of business.
Compassionately adjust the by-law allowing for the willing of licences so that only qualified people committed to and involved in the industry will participate.
A more comprehensive and frequent vehicle examination to include vehicle comfort and appearance. Increase the vehicle operatorsí responsibility and accountability. Place the review of taxi industry safety in line with the other municipal vehicles.
Require register of leasing and transfers of taxi vehicle licences. Return the control of the licences and knowledge of industry activities to the city.
Removal of all liens and mortgages from city taxi vehicle licences. The licences should be treated as city property.
Create a Taxi Commission with a "Taxi Czar" to oversee all aspects of the industry. Lessen the burden for the city committee and council.
The drivers of CityWide Taxi have prepared the following report. This document is not professionally prepared; however, the persons who have worked on it are professional, committed and experienced taxi drivers. They are attempting to convey their knowledge of Oshawaís taxi industry combined with a comprehensive study of reports, articles and analysis of information about taxi industries around the world to offer a system which will improve the industry in all its aspects. The system now employed in Oshawa was devised over twenty years ago. Its resultant effects could not be foreseen at that time. The resultant inequities and poor standards in the industry need to be corrected today. The drivers offer this report to give the City of Oshawa the opportunity of creating a truly superior taxi service in Oshawa built upon its existing structure. The drivers are hopeful that the report is enlightening and understandable for the committee and council as they make decisions that will effect the future of their industry.
The Emancipation of the Taxi Industry in Oshawa
Oshawaís Best Opportunity to Create a Superior Taxi Service Industry
The following documentation in this report will provide the reader with the background information necessary to support our recommended changes.
Purpose of This Report
The taxi industry in Oshawa has become an integral component of the city's over-all transportation scheme, conveying approximately 2.5 million passengers to their destinations yearly. Taxis are the intermediate step in Oshawaís urban transportation system, providing a service that extends beyond the set-stop, fixed time routes of existing public transportation, operating 24 hours daily, 52 weeks of the year. The service is there because an obvious need exists. The public requires another means of transportation in addition to the existing public services and their own access to private means of transport. Taxi service is there and available on a metered cost basis for those of the public who require personal transportation and are willing to accept the cost.
"Taxicabs are a vital public service. They comprise an essential complement to the smooth operation of public transit services, whether urban or inter-urban, and for some groups of people are the only available means of transportation (disabled, rural dwellers, etc.). Taxis are also a back-up service for unplanned travel (business, emergencies, etc.). As a result, authorities bear a responsibility in ensuring the availability and proper operation of this transportation service.
Furthermore, on their own, clients cannot compare the quality of service and fares, especially in the large cities, to make an informed decision before hiring a cab, whether at a taxi stand or by hailing a taxi in the street. According to a generally accepted principle, regulations are necessary only to offset market imperfections.
We also note that few government authorities are willing to allow full deregulation of taxi transportation: even the most radical deregulators continue to uphold vehicle safety or driver knowledge requirements. The drawbacks of taxicab deregulation became apparent by the eighties, and offered "lessons for policy makers."
(Michel Trudel, Departmental Coordinator, Quebec Department of Transportation, Taxi Services, The Fundamentals of Taxi Regulation and The Quebec Experience, February 1995.)
This report is offered to provide a system of operations for the taxi industry that will better serve the community and the industry itself. This industry is far more complicated than most people could ever imagine. During cases of arbitration between the companies and the employees, much of the time is spent (at great cost) educating the arbitrators and often the respective lawyers about the workings of this convoluted business.
This report and the accompanying reading materials are provided by the drivers in the taxi industry to assist those who must decide what structure will best serve the community and their industry.
The proposal contained has been carefully constructed to be of the most benefit to the community and the industry. Although it does advocate a movement towards a change in the present vehicle licencing structure, it does so in a controlled manner which will allow all involved to continue to operate with minimal disruption to the industry or the community.
Durham College would create the proposed taxi-driver-training course. The driver would pick up the cost of the training. Some could get funding assistance from the Provincial Government. There would be no cost to the city concerning the taxi driverís course.
If there are any costs created for the city when implementing the remainder of this program, (such as an increase of by-law enforcement, office staff, Taxi Commission, phone lines, etc.) they could be recouped by charging increased fees for the Taxi Driverís Licences and the Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences.
The Best Taxi Service in the World
Unfortunately, the best taxi service in the world is not in Oshawa, Ontario. Accepted by most that are aware or have some understanding of how taxi industries operate, London, England is considered to be the best managed industry. If you hire a taxi in London, you are assured of being driven in a polished, clean, comfortable, roadworthy and unique vehicle. The licenced owner of the vehicle would drive you in a safe, polite and courteous manner, taking the most efficient route while observing all of the laws of the road.
The reason you would be treated to such a different experience from what you might expect in most North American cities is due to the system that London has developed over the past four hundred years to deal with their taxi industry.
Firstly, to become a taxi driver in London you must acquire "Your Knowledge". To do so you have to pass a series of tests demonstrating your familiarity with the streets, businesses and attractions of London. Theoretically, an applicant could pass the tests in a two-year period, but most average about five or more years to complete all stages. If you visit London, you would possibly notice groups of men on bicycles, riding around town, learning the next required section for their upcoming test in pursuit of their "Knowledge".
When an applicant has achieved "Getting His Knowledge", he is then awarded his taxi driverís licence. Having received his taxi driverís licence, he would be eligible to pick up his Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence, when he could afford to acquire his own vehicle. This unique taxi vehicle must fulfill the particular requirements of a London Taxi.
The vehicle licence in London is deregulated in the sense that it is the difficulty in getting a taxi driverís licence and the law of supply and demand that controls the number issued. There are no multi-plate holders, only one licence to one person. There is no value in the vehicle licence; all of the value in their taxi industry is in the driver.
The time, effort and monetary investment the driver has put into becoming a London cabby results in a business person who is proud and respected in his profession. He strives to provide a superior taxi vehicle and to personally behave in a respectful, efficient and responsible manner. To do otherwise could endanger the great investment he has made in time, effort and money obtaining his licence.
It would be impossible to create an identical situation in Oshawa. However, understanding the principals involved and applying the essential ingredients to our industry could create one of the better taxi services in North America. Oshawa has its own unique history, upon which we must build. In this report, some of the basic premises found in the London experience and others are adapted to our local industry in a manner which would be as minimally disruptive to the industry and the community as possible while establishing a more efficient, cost effective and responsible taxi service.
Oshawaís Taxi Industry
Before 1977, there was no restriction of the number of taxis in the City of Oshawa. For the most part, individuals owned and operated their taxis. Some operated additional cars that they allowed drivers to work, paying a commission of the meterís recordings for that shift. In addition, brokerages provided dispatch and billing services while also offering taxicab vehicles to employees on a commission basis. Everyone involved in the industry shared proportionally in the available business.
In the years before 1977, a driver was able to pick up their Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence at City Hall for a $25.00 fee. Competition based upon the quality of service and not on the number of "plates", provided the City with a healthy and competitive taxi industry producing such companies as Mercury, United, Motor City, Arrow and Crown. The public had a choice of companies and their competition created the needed business climate to produce, in some cases, superior taxi services.
In 1977, the city effectively put a freeze on the number of Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences and created the "Priority Waiting List". The system was modeled after numerous other taxi systems in North America (Toronto, New York, Boston, etc.) all of which are suffering from similar problems (poor quality of cars, drivers and service, as well as unfair, monopolistic and exploitive business practices) in their respective taxi industries.
The owners of the then operating vehicles retained the licences they were operating. Having knowledge of the new system, the owners of the licences, while discouraging other drivers from going to City Hall, quickly placed themselves at the head of the "Priority Waiting List". Thus, they ensured that they would be the only persons receiving Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences from the list for more than twenty years. Within one year of the freeze, licences sold for between five and ten thousand dollars. The monopoly of the industry, the exploitation of the drivers and the poor service began to develop.
The Taxi Industry, Today and Tomorrow
The present restriction of the issuance of the number of taxi vehicle licences has not been completely frozen. The Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences are issued at a ratio of one for every 1500 persons recorded in the population to those who placed themselves upon "The Priority Waiting List" approximately twenty years ago. Presently and into the near future, predominantly those who currently hold licences are those who are eligible. This produces a situation that only feeds more vehicle licences to those who already are licenced. The people who presently hold most of the licences in Oshawa are at the top of the Priority Waiting List and, under the current interpretation of the rules for eligibility, they are assured of being the only recipients well into the next millenium.
Currently, the definition of the main requirement for eligibility, "employment full time in the taxi industry", could loosely be interpreted as the mere holding of a licence or licenses to constitute "full time", and therefore their eligibility. Few of the people heading the Priority Waiting List, (most are multi-plate holders) participate as taxi drivers. Therefore a person, who has little or no direct contact with the taxi industry, is able to not only charge lease and rental fees for merely holding a licence, but they, and in this century, only they have been allowed to increase their number of licences from the Priority Waiting List. There is no requirement that they be a taxi-driver. This effectively denies drivers being promoted to Owner/Operators and holders of their own licence. This growth of the current ownersí monopoly serves only themselves.
In conjunction with the monopoly of the vehicle licences, they have been allowed to transfer and lease the licences. This has created a value for the licences. These licences are sold for obscene prices and command exorbitant and unnecessary lease fees. This only adds to the overhead for the entire industry and in turn increases the costs to the consumer. It also follows that these unnecessary costs result in a reduction in the quality of service for the public.
The combination of "ownership" and the "freeze" of the licences has produced a change in how the licences are used which was unforeseen when the present system was adopted. Originally, the licences were used by owner/operators who owned and drove their taxis. Some operated other cars, but almost all of them were taxi drivers, mostly full and some part time. Many of the people who were then participating in the taxi industry have changed their status to that of lessors, renters or have sold out entirely. Most of those who "own" the licences now never drive. Some never have driven a taxi. The abandonment of the commission system and adoption of the lease and rental system has further removed these "owner" participants from the industry.
There are only two companies left in Oshawa offering little choice to the community, the independent vehicle operators or the drivers. The remaining two companies provide the same services, similar sized fleets, and near identical internal pricing structures and rates. Competitive companies would strive to have superior drivers, cars, dispatch systems and billing procedures. The resulting lack of competition in the industry denies the public the benefits that such competition would bring.
Presently the licences are valued at between twenty-five and thirty thousand dollars. This produces a climate that creates investors out of these licence owners or invites investors from outside the industry, or the Durham Region. Most of these owners and investors provide little if any positive input into the industry while taking out their unearned profits. Their group is also in full control of the industry. The structure of the industry has been manipulated to maximize the profits from the lease of licences or the rental of cars. As they have become the only owners of the licences, there is a lack of balance. There should be a number of drivers licenced to operate their own vehicle as a taxi.
The taxi industry would survive and thrive with the added participation of drivers who could have the opportunity to operate and maintain their own licenced vehicles. The drivers have direct contact with, compete for the real taxi business, and directly serve the community. A fleet of taxis with a greater percentage of fully trained, experienced, licenced drivers who are responsible for their own licenced vehicles would produce a superior taxi industry.
The present situation places all of the licences to be issued from the city in the hands of people who already hold licences. Issuing any of them additional licences will only give those individuals and that segment of the industry more licences to lease and/or cars to rent.
That the present "owners" operate as they do and have created the present state of our industry does not mean that they are disreputable business people. They are only taking advantage of an opportunity created by the system and the by-laws that now exist.
"Why should there be any control of the number of taxis, as distinct from control over safety and comfort of the vehicles and the efficiency of their drivers, thus creating this totally artificial market in licences? The case for such a limitation of licence numbers is far from self-evident.
Left to themselves, the normal laws of supply and demand could be expected to provide an appropriate scale of service, as happens with other services. No one has suggested regulation of the supply of barristers or solicitors or house agents or hairdressers. Why then are taxi numbers regulated?"
("Taxi Licence Controls Harm the Commuter". Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, "The Irish Times", January 10, 1998.)
Given the street value of the licences at $30,000.00 and the number currently issued in Oshawa at ninety, the value of the private monopoly profit that has been inadvertently created by the public authorities through their restrictions on the issue of licences is about $2,700,000.00. The lessor of such a licence is guaranteed an annual return of $6,000.00 or 20% on their "investment" for as long as they "own" the "plate".
"This is an astonishing sum to have permitted, indeed encouraged, private individuals to create for themselves through restriction of supply. Many of those concerned, we are told, are not taxi drivers but wealthy individuals or companies who have cashed in on an aberrant aspect of public policy."
(Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland "Taxi Licence Controls Harm the Commuter", "The Irish Times", January 10, 1998.)
However, there is a qualification to the application of the law of supply and demand to the taxi industry. Adequate entry requirements for drivers and vehicle operators are required. The mobility and anonymity of the individual taxi vehicle and the inability for the consumer to make informed choices when hiring a taxi create an inviting easy access business opportunity for the unemployed and unemployable. Without effective entry requirements, the industry and the city would be flooded with poor quality vehicles and drivers producing an inferior service. The level of competition would defeat the possibility for all involved to make a reasonable living and the result would not service the community or the industry.
The following proposal presents a system that will not destroy the existing industry or any of those within it. It offers a controlled and gradual process that will allow the present participants to continue to operate. The gradual nature of the implementation allows all concerned time to make any necessary adjustments. Projecting its effect into the future, it will create a more educated and responsible taxi workforce, a more equitable and economical system of business, a higher quality, safer taxi fleet and much-improved service for the community.
The Requirements for a Taxi Driverís Licence
Currently a person who wishes to obtain a Taxi Driverís Licence, need only produce a valid driverís licence, three wallet size pictures of themselves and a criminal search of their records to prove that they have no history of violence related charges or convictions.
Applying the current system, all of the value is placed on the postage card sized piece of tin attached to back of the taxi. A few short years ago, when the drivers had little or no voice, the owners often referred to them as being "a dime a dozen". This was the ownersí often-voiced attitude regarding their employees. Although they have learned to be more politically correct by not referring publicly to their employees in this manner, for them, it is true. In good times, the income for drivers is adequate to attract a sufficient number of employees to rent all of their vehicles or lease their plates. In poor economic times a desperate and growing employment pool of workers, who need not show much more than a driverís licence as qualification, are there ready to pay for the opportunity to make any income.
The standards should be higher. A taxi driver should be a skilled professional whose main function is to transport passengers from a point of origin to a destination. The taxi driver has the responsibility of being the "front line" representative of their brokerage, the taxi industry as a whole and the community. They service our public, meet, and greet new arrivals and tourists coming to our region.
A qualified driver, who has made a commitment in the form of passing tests, taking courses and investing their time and money, would take pride in, and value, the licence they have earned. Once the drivers respect themselves and their position, it follows that they will take more care with, be accountable to and respect their clientele.
The following are areas that should be addressed in a course to be completed and/or a test passed before a driver receives a licence to represent our city as a taxi driver or taxi vehicle owner.
Durham Region Geography: The applicant should demonstrate they have knowledge of the location of and efficient routes to the streets, hospitals, medical centers, hotels, tourist attractions and businesses in Oshawa and the Region of Durham. They should also have knowledge of the main thoroughfares, intersections, major hospitals and popular sites in Toronto.
Defensive Driving Course
Durham Region Tourism
City of Oshawa Taxi By-laws
Emergency Situations & Safety Procedures
Cab Maintenance & Standards
Cultural Diversity/Human Rights/Women in Society
Street Guide and Map Techniques
Taxicab Meters/Trip Record Procedures
Dealing with Passengers with Disabilities
Wheelchair Handling Techniques
Basic Back Care
Dealing With Difficult Customers/Situations
Stress Management/Well Being/Road Rage
Winter Driving Skills
Sharing The Road with Cyclists/Pedestrians/Motorists
Business Management/Financial Planning
Emergency First Aid/CPR Emergency First Aid and Adult CPR.
The applicant should be required to demonstrate an adequate understanding and use of the English language.
(Toronto Licensing Commission, Effective Taxicab Driver Training Program, 1998, adapted for the Durham Region.)
Durham College has offered to create, with input from the industry and the city, a course including the subjects as outlined above at no cost to the municipality.
In order for the industry to continue servicing the community and not to be punitive to the currently licenced drivers, the existing drivers should be grandfathered in. However, the licenced drivers when they make application for renewal could be required to update their skills and training by completing sections (1/3) of the required course. With renewals required every two years, all currently licenced drivers would be updated and fully trained in six years.
Michel Trudel, Departmental Coordinator, Quebec Department of Transportation, Taxi Services on the implementation of training courses in Quebec writes that:
"An Act respecting transportation by taxi was recently amended to include the authority to prescribe mandatory training courses prior to taxi driver license renewals through regulations in areas designated by the regulations.
If the government prescribed that a different course would have to be taken every two years, in ten to fifteen years, we would have an entire new generation of taxi drivers better trained and better prepared to meet their clients' expectations.
If the taxi industry seeks genuine recognition of its professional status, it will have to act in unison. In these days of economic recession, when demand is lower, what better time to urge taxi drivers to spend a few hours retraining and developing their skill? Professional retraining would also reduce the number of taxi drivers and finally put the industry in the hands of the people providing the service: taxi drivers."
(Michel Trudel, Departmental Coordinator, Quebec Department of Transportation, Taxi Services, The Fundamentals of Taxi Regulation and The Quebec Experience, February 1995.)
Monitoring of the Industry
The training should also be combined with a program of monitoring the taxi driversí and vehicle operatorís conduct and performance. Currently drivers only see By-law Enforcement Officers at meter and safety checks twice a year and in respect to parking and stand related incidents.
The monitoring should be increased to more regularly inspect the cleanliness and condition of the car and the performance and deportment of the driver. By more comprehensive monitoring of the industry, eventually the worst offenders will improve their performance or be weeded out and the need for the City to continually perform this policing will ultimately lessen.
The public should have the means to readily communicate a comment, compliment or a complaint. The creation of a special telephone line for such calls, with the number displayed on the tariff card, would improve customer relations.
To assist the driver in communicating with the public, the Tariff Card could also contain such reminders as:
The requirement to fasten seat belts.
No food or drink.
A reminder to remove all belongings on exit.
The by-laws regarding smoking in taxis.
In the interests of safety, better service and public confidence, the current city bylaw below should be amended:
" 2:04 Vehicle Examinations: The Chief of Police shall inspect every vehicle (and its necessary equipment) for which a Taxicab Licence is applied. The Chief of Police shall also inspect every Licensed Taxicab from time to time. The Chief of Police shall report the results of these inspections to the City Clerk."
(The Corporation of the City of Oshawa, By-Law 90-95, 1995.)
The vehicles and their metersí accuracy are inspected semiannually by the by-law officers (Chief of Police) along with the already required safety certificates as presently provided in by-law 2:04. The bylaw should further include the requirement for each taxi to produce a safety certificate to the City Clerk an additional two times a year. This would bring the Taxi Industry in line with other public service vehicles. The more frequent inspections would also improve the maintenance, safety and quality of the fleet and gain the confidence of the public.
In addition, the city should have the right to periodically and randomly order safety checks on taxi vehicles for any valid reason or should the city receive complaints regarding the safety or quality of a taxi vehicle.
The city should create its own safety certificate, containing all of the requirements currently used in the standard Department of Transportation certificate. An addition of applicable items such as the condition, comfort and appearance of the interior (i.e. seats, including the driverís) and the condition and appearance of the exterior (i.e. dents, condition of paint), with the intent of raising the standards of the entire city fleet. These additional items could be inspected by the by-law officers at the semi-annual meter and safety checks.
Any garages performing the inspections should be ones that are licenced to carry out Department of Transpiration Safety Checks. Should any of these garages be found to falsify their assertion that the vehicle meets the required standards, they should be fined and prevented from performing any future inspections. The holder of the Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence, if they are found to have participated in this fraud, should also be subject to a strong reprimand, fine and/or possible revocation of the licence.
Responsible Driver and Operator Program
In conjunction with opening up a means of communication for the public to comment on the performance of the drivers, vehicles or the industry, there should be a program created that would allow for the review of complaints against participants in the industry. In New York, the "Bad Driver" program was set up with positive results:
"In examining passenger complaints, TLC found that one-percent of the 40,000 licensed drivers were the source of 10% of all serious service complaints. This small number of drivers could rack up many infractions because they could continue driving as long as fines were paid.
"TLC sought to rectify this situation with the "BAD DRIVER" program. This program, begun in October 1989, ensures that drivers who persistently violate TLC rules will have their licenses suspended and, after as few as 3 serious violations, revoked. The result of this program has been a pronounced decline in passenger complaints. The worst drivers have been forced out of the industry and the existence of this program has had a potent deterrent effect on others. For example, the number of drivers persistently committing serious rule violations dropped by 50% in the program's first year. 
"TLC REVOKES DRIVERS' LICENSES because of (1) egregious behavior such as a physical assault on a passenger, (2) one overcharge of more than $10, or three service refusals and/or overcharges of any size in a 3-year period (the penalties for these cases are set by local law, and thus are called mandatories); and (3) under the bad driver program, for repeated serious violations.
· 12 driver licenses were either revoked or were surrendered in the face of revocation proceedings for egregious conduct.
· 12 licenses were revoked under the mandatory provisions on refusals and overcharges.
20 licenses were revoked under the bad driver program. (Fifteen of these revocations are final while 5 licenses were revoked at an "inquest" hearing at which the driver failed to appear. These cases may be reopened if the driver shows a good reason for missing the hearing but drivers in this group cannot drive until the case is cleared up.)
· A total of 181 licenses were revoked, surrendered or not renewed for cause between 1990 and 1993."
(Schaller Report: The New York City Taxicab Fact Book. Published by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, May 1994.)
A similar "Responsible Driver and Vehicle Operator Program", suited to Oshawaís taxi industry, should be created. Through the increased monitoring and a similar review of their work, the drivers and operators would be encouraged to carry out their duties in a more responsible manner.
A Taxi Commission
To better manage and monitor the taxi industry, a Taxi Commission with a "Taxi Czar", reporting to council, could produce an integrated management program. The Commission would create and manage the required licencing, monitoring and all of the necessary programs to achieve and maintain the desired superior taxi industry. This would relieve the committee and council from constantly dealing with the industry. Oshawa and its taxi industry have grown to the point that a Taxi Commission may be justified.
The Priority Waiting List
The Priority Waiting List was designed to provide a means for people in the industry to acquire taxicab vehicle licences and to control the number of taxis to a suitable ratio to serve the growing population. This arbitrary ratio of 1/1500 does not take into account changes in the community, which effect the day to day taxi business. There are no provisions for the varying health of the economy, weather trends, and loss of delivery service due to fax machines and e-mail, etc.
After twenty-two years, the Priority Waiting List has failed, except in one isolated and exceptional instance, to provide a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence to a working driver who did not already hold one or more. (The driver, who received his Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence, was only found listed at the head of the Priority Waiting List with the group of "owners" because in 1977 he was one of them.)
It is the interpretation of the rules for eligibility that has failed to issue vehicle licences fairly and productively. Presently there are about one hundred names on the Priority Waiting List. Many of those should not be eligible to receive taxicab licences from the city under the current or our proposed interpretation of the rules for eligibility. In order to not deny those who are rightfully eligible and are currently on the priority waiting list, initially any released licences should be offered to them sequentially. Only those who can fulfill this reportís requirements should be eligible.
This report is proposing that the Priority Waiting List be closed to new applicants. The list would quickly be exhausted and then be unnecessary. From that point, licences would be issued to qualified and experienced applicants as long as there are sufficient entry restrictions to limit the number of licences not to harm the industry.
By increasing the requirements significantly to achieve eligibility for driversí and vehicle operatorsí licences combined with the ultimate "freeing" of the vehicle licences to qualified and experienced drivers, a natural balance could be achieved. This balance would be weighted between the relative difficulty in receiving a taxi driverís licence, the length of time required and quality of the driverís service, plus the cost of investing in the car and the overhead and commitment involved in operating a taxi, compared to the driverís (entrepreneurís) perceived expectation of success, taking into account the current (at that time) amount of business available to support such a venture.
The City must re-define "full time in the taxi industry" as it pertains to the Priority Waiting List and eligibility to receive a vehicle operatorís licence. Mere holding of a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence should not constitute full time employment. The holders of the current licences have become renters and lessors, only providing vehicles and/or licences to the industry (a redundancy as the city has already provided the licences). What stretch of logic would give more licences to those who already have one or more? If they wish to increase their holdings, they could further invest by purchasing licences, if they are made available, on the open market. The driversí only current source of licences is from the present holders at prices that effectively exclude them, not from the city. Currently the people who have received licences from the Priority Waiting List only rarely, if ever, drive the vehicles they may operate if they operate any at all. Most often they only lease the licence(s) or rent the vehicle(s). The qualified drivers should have the option to operate a vehicle on a licence obtained from the city.
The following, taken from The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission "Taxi Cab Fact Book", demonstrates that experienced and committed drivers produce superior service and would be the correct choice as recipients of licences from the city.
"WHO PROVIDES "GOOD" TAXI SERVICE: A 1988 study found that "good" drivers generally worked full-time and had several years of experience driving a cab. These experienced, full-time drivers had been the subject of far fewer complaints for service problems such as refusing passengers, overcharging, treating passengers rudely or abusively or driving unsafely. Part-time, relatively novice drivers had the worst records, with violation rates 5 1/2 times greater than full-time, experienced drivers.
More-recent studies have also shown the benefits of experience and the implications for the quality of service offered by various segments of the taxi industry:
· The most experienced drivers violated TLC rules 4 to 5 times less often than drivers in their first year. [Summons records for October 1990-March 1992]
· Drivers with better-than-average complaint records have driven 5 or more years.
· Owner-drivers, who drive full-time and are generally more experienced than lessees, violated TLC rules less than half as often as drivers working for taxi management companies.
· These differences are found with respect to the most serious rule infractions as well as all infractions taken together.
"Unfortunately, high turnover among drivers means that most taxi service is provided by drivers with less experience, many of whom work part-time.
"Owner-drivers have long been regarded as among the best and most experienced taxi drivers. In buying a taxicab license, owner-drivers have made a commitment to the industry. Most have several years of driving experience when they purchase a license, and go on to drive for a number of years."
(Schaller Report: The New York City Taxicab Fact Book. Published by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, May 1994.)
These facts are comparable and relevant to the taxi industry in Oshawa. The public and the industry would be better served by offering taxi vehicle operatorís licences to trained and well-experienced drivers. It would serve the city better to encourage more committed and experienced drivers to remain in the industry rather than having so many transient workers passing through.
The Ratio of Taxis to the Population
The restriction of the number of Vehicle Owner Licences in conjunction with making it permissible to transfer and lease vehicle licences, in any municipality, has been the cause of the taxi licence acquiring a value. This value distorts the function and operation of the entire industry. A graduated movement towards increasing the number of taxicab vehicle licences driven and operated by qualified and experienced drivers, combined with greater requirements for and accountability of all involved will greatly alleviate this aberration. This moderate and graduated step towards free enterprise will produce a superior industry, which will better serve the community.
The present ratio of 1 to 1500 only continues to serve the licence holders and not the consumer. The taxi drivers would not want to see any increase in the number of taxis in Oshawa under the present system. An increase would only produce more income for the lessors and renters, as they would be the recipients of the income generated by any increased number of licences. It would only further dilute the business out on the street. It would also place more inexperienced and unqualified drivers on the road. The added costs and the current structure of the industry would only produce more cars working more shifts with no relationship to the amount of business available to the industry.
However, if there were significantly higher requirements for taxi driverís licences and vehicle operatorís licences, as defined in this report, and a policy of issuing vehicle licences only to qualified drivers, a balance could be achieved through the law of supply and demand that would better serve the public and the industry.
A reduction of the devisor of the ratio by thirty annually (1500-1470-1440-etc.), the population remaining constant, would result in two additional licences being issued annually to qualified and experienced drivers. Eventually, the licences would be "free" to those who qualify. Qualification should be earned by passing the required courses and driving a sufficient period to gain the needed experience to be a responsible taxi driver/owner. The resulting slow and controlled movement towards a free enterprise system would allow all involved and the industry the time to adjust to this new climate in their business.
However, a control on the number of taxis is a very important ingredient in the mixture that will produce a superior taxi industry. This is true, whether a ratio of the population or the proposed free market system with the high entry requirements proposed here is utilized. Any movement approaching the reduction of the 1/1500 ratio should be implemented cautiously and only after a period (two years or more) which would allow a review of the effects of the other provisions in this report. De-regulation without necessary entry controls for issuing of vehicle licences has been unsuccessful throughout the world.
The following is just one of the benefits of issuing the licences to driver/operators. Of the drivers who currently operate their own vehicles with owned or leased plates, a small percentage are the sole drivers of their vehicles. They generally work the peak hours of business, usually from 8 to 12 hours between 8:00 am and 12:pm. They work when the business is there and their car is idle when business slows. Allowing qualified and experienced drivers to receive Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences will produce more drivers who will operate in this fashion. It will therefore place more taxis on the road when needed and reduce the number of cars sitting idle but still working during the slower periods because each "fleet" car must work two 12 hour shifts to maximize the ownerís profits.
Eligibility and the Priority Waiting List
The following are the necessary requirements for the equitable distribution of the Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences that will best ultimately serve the industry and the community:
A full time driver who has proven they can pass the tests for the taxi driver courses and who does not hold a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence. They must prove that they have been licenced and worked as a driver in the industry, full or part-time, for ten years. In addition, the applicant must have worked full-time as a driver for four consecutive years before the date the City considers their eligibility. The City would consider such a driver when their consecutive position on the "Priority Waiting List" placed them as the next recipient. When the list contains only recipients who have less than ten years or do not otherwise fulfil the necessary requirements, all qualifying drivers (trained with ten years experience, the previous four years full-time) would be eligible and the list would be unnecessary.
All drivers applying to be operators should be required to be fully trained and willing to update their skills and knowledge. Drivers currently licenced with the required experience, who wish to be licenced operators, at the outset of this program, should be allowed the opportunity to take the taxi course in order to fulfill the requirements.
Once a driver has received a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence, they should not be allowed to apply a second time. (The city must remove the danger that a qualified driver would just be a conduit for licences to prospective buyers.) It must be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The driver who receives a vehicle licence from the city should be required to be the owner/operator of the vehicle and one of the principal (full-time) drivers for a period of five years before they would be allowed to merely rent the licenced vehicle or lease or transfer the licence.
The applicant should be required to submit a performance bond ($1,000.00-$2,000.00) to prove his sincerity and financial ability to enter the business as an operator. Should the operator not maintain the standards of the industry or meet their obligations, the licence and the bond could be revoked.
These requirements are based upon the need to create an effective control of the quality of the owner/drivers and of the number of taxis. Should it be found that the ten and four years is to restrictive, it will have been better to have erred on the side of conservatism than to have flooded the market and greatly harmed the industry.
Should an adjustment be required later, it is predicted that a reduction in the time served would be necessary as opposed to an increase. The qualified drivers who are near the head of the Priority Waiting List have enough seniority to meet most of the requirements. There would be sufficient applicants to initialize the system and ample time to make any necessary adjustments.
This method of controlling the number of vehicle licences by increasing the requirements to enter the industry is defined as minimal criteria:
"Minimal criteria, where access to the market is conditional to the operatorís compliance with minimal criteria set by the authority, such as vehicles, insurance, professional training and driverís knowledge, availability of service, minimum number of taxis per company, etc. Some of these criteria can be very stringent and constitute a formidable barrier to entering the market. A typical example of this can be seen in London, where the high cost for obtaining a licence represents an effective barrier of entry to the market."
Further, "another significant reason for entry restriction, namely, to make it easier to control the quality of the trade. Regulation of quality can maintain continuity of ownership and supply, and thus reduce the administrative burden of regulation."
(Choong-Ho Kang, BSc(Eng), MSc(Eng) Taxi Deregulation: International Comparison, Institute for Transport Studies, The University of Leeds, Aug. 1998.)
Deregulation is one method, a simplistic one, of dealing with the sensitive problem of the issue. The experience of unqualified deregulation has been unsuccessful for all taxi industries where it has been implemented. The Sweden experience demonstrates the damage deregulation without the necessary entry controls, can cause:
"The taxi industry was changed into a hopeless business. The fares had fallen to a level where there was no possibility of carrying out serious operations. Tax fraud rocketed, in particular in the cities, and those taxi-owners who stuck to the rules were forced out of business. More than 1,000 taxi companies went bust from 1991 to 1995. Those drivers who had ambitions for their future fled the industry. They realized that the taxi business had only be described as an arena where underpayment and excessive working hours have become the most important instruments in the fight for survival.
"The big taxi companies and the experienced drivers were replaced by unemployed workers and immigrants who neither had the experience nor the qualifications for the job. As a consequence, the industry continued to sink further into fraud. For instance, police and public authorities received a high number of complaints from embassies in Sweden, because foreign tourists had been duped into paying exorbitant fares when travelling from Arlanda airport to the centre of Stockholm.
"Even the problem of robbery changed in character. Prior to deregulation it was the criminal passengers who robbed drivers. After deregulation, a number of drivers started to rob their passengers."
(Martin Viredius, editor of the magazine of the Swedish Transport workersí Union, The Total Breakdown of the Swedish Taxi Industry, Urban Transport Magazine, published by the International Transport Workersí Federation, April/May 1997.)
In almost every instance, deregulation has resulted in virtual chaos for the taxi industry. Control of the industry is lost. Anyone can apply for and secure a taxicab license. Municipalities are soon flooded with all types of people operating taxicabs. More people compete for the same customer base. Incomes fall, the quality of the cars fall, and most importantly the level of service to the community falls. Where deregulation has been applied, it has failed. City governments have had to re-introduce regulations to ensure that the citizens received good safe service. Deregulation although appearing to be a quick easy fix, has instead been a catastrophic move that has resulted in an uncontrolled industry where the unqualified rules of supply and demand are a failure. The result is an overabundance of increasingly substandard vehicles, driven by dangerous, unqualified and desperate workers, providing an inferior service.
In researching this report, the writers were unable to find one instance where this simplistic solution was a suitable remedy for the problems it was expected to cure. In every instance, the result created a deteriorated industry for all involved and, most importantly, for the community.
Any move towards deregulation must therefore be carefully balanced with effective entry requirements before being implemented. That is why this report recommends moving cautiously towards relaxing the restrictions (1/1500) on the number of licences until it can be determined if the recommended entry requirements are adequate. A periodic (every two years) review of this aspect of the industry to determine if the necessary restraints (i.e. entry requirements) on the number of plates is adequate to warrant relaxing the ratio, would be a sensible method of monitoring the implementation of this critical issue.
The Willing of Plates to Estates
The "owners" of the licences obviously supported the willing of the licences to the holdersí estate, a by-law recently adopted. (The drivers were unaware of council addressing this matter or they would have vehemently protested its adoption!) This further solidifies the licence as a commodity and creates some definite problems in the future. Were the present system to remain intact, the bequeathing of the licences obviously will prevent professional drivers from having the opportunity to promote themselves to licenced vehicle owner/operators.
The current supply of licences would remain in families for generations. Also there is a potential for the descendents, while never having otherwise participated, to inherit licences and therefore extract the leasing fees from the industry. They could be even further removed from the industry than some of the present holders, but just as willing to profit from their good fortune. It is entirely possible that these descendents could live outside the Durham region or even the country and still extract their profits. This would be an obvious disservice to the consumer, the industry and the community. In addition, the City would have little control over the eligibility or suitability of the descendents.
The willing of these licences should never have been allowed. However, if a case can be made to support the continuance of this policy, it should be limited as follows:
There should be an amendment that would limit the willing of the Vehicle Ownersí Licence to a spouse or legal equivalent that can fulfill the requirements for eligibility. In this instance, on compassionate grounds, the eligibility requirements could be relaxed to allow the inheritor the opportunity to attend and pass the required course and only be required to fulfil a two-year full-time driver stipulation. The inheritor could operate or lease the licence during the two-year period.
The Register of Leasing and Transfers
"The most serious blunder emerging from inept regulatory authorities suffering from a staggering lack of foresight was to impose a quota on licences, while simultaneously failing to prohibit transfer of the licence. Since antiquity, every student of economics quickly learned that when something becomes scarce, it will acquire a real property value of its own if there is no prohibition on it changing hands. This is one of the fundamental rules of economics, yet unforeseen by many regulatory authorities throughout North America."
(Terry Smythe, Taxicab Deregulation: Futility of Blessing, www.winnipeg.freenet,mb.ca/taxi/art0502.html, May 1997.)
In truth, there is no justification or valid reason to allow the Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence to be treated as a commodity. The value created by the limitation of the number of vehicle licences (combined with permitting them to be transferred and/or leased) is at the root of the many problems found in all municipalities where the licences have become the only valued item in the industry. It should be an Operatorís Licence, owned by the City of Oshawa and have no commodity value.
The "ownerís" ability to lease and/or transfer or sell the Taxicab Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence contributes to creating the monetary value in a licence that should have none. However, the leasing and/or transfer of licences have become entrenched in the industry over the last 21 years. To discontinue this practice arbitrarily would be too disruptive to the industry, the individuals holding the licences, and possibly the community.
A continuity, provided by allowing the present owners to retain what may ultimately be a reduced value of their licences, will help the industry make a slow controlled transition to one where more drivers eventually become the operators of individual taxis. The immediate removal of the option to lease and/or transfer the licences, while creating the positive effect of removing the value the licences now have, would cause most of the industry to be in disarray. A large percentage of the licences are now leased from the actual holder to both independent owner/operators and multi-car fleet operators. The measures for restricting the transfer and leasing of the licences presented in this report may reduce the value that the licences have attained. The higher entry requirements will eventually redistribute some of the licences to more responsible, trained and experienced drivers.
Therefore, as the leasing and transfer of the licences have been permitted, these practices should be strictly monitored by the city:
There should be a standardized leasing agreement form issued by the city authorizing and validating the agreement to lease between the lessor and the lessee, completed, notarized and registered with City Hall. (Failure to register leasing should result in stiff penalties such as the revoking of taxi licence privileges.)
Such registry should allow for the owner of the vehicle to retain ownership of his/her vehicle. (At present, the owners of vehicles operating with leased licences must have their ownership and insurance slips showing the lessor as the owner of the vehicle. This puts the vehicle owner in some jeopardy. It could give the licence holder the opportunity to use the vehicle ownership for security for loans, etc.)
The recipient of a transfer of a vehicle operatorís licence should be restricted to be only those who are actively involved in the taxi industry. They must fulfill the eligibility requirements as a driver or, minimally, must already hold a Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence(s) and directly operate a taxi vehicle(s). Those who only lease licences should be denied increasing their number of licences by any means.
City Hall to register all transfers of taxi licences and any arrangements for the transfer of the licences (down-payment arrangements, etc.). (Failure to register such transfers at the time of the transaction to result in the revoking of taxi licence privileges.)
The holder of any licence(s) should be prevented from using any "Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence" as collateral for any loans or mortgages. It should be illegal to place a lien on any City of Oshawa issued "Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licence". (Any presently outstanding liens, mortgages or loans should be cleared up to the Cityís satisfaction within a reasonable time specified by the council. The owner could be required to sell the licence(s) to clear up any outstanding debts incurred using any taxi licence as collateral. The licence is city property. Once all of these current liens and loans, should they exist, are cleared to the cityís satisfaction, a licence holder subsequently found using a licence in such a manner should have their licence(s) revoked.)
The suggestions contained in this report directed at improving and reviewing the performance of the drivers and the taxi vehicles have the twofold effect of restricting the entry into the industry and raising the quality of the workers and their equipment. The result from just these suggestions would be an improved service for the community.
The increase in the requirements to receive a Taxi Driverís Licence.
The completion of a required course to become a taxi driver.
The creation of a "Responsible Driver and Operator Program" to monitor and adjudicate cases of reported poor service by individuals.
A more comprehensive and frequent vehicle examination to include safety but not exclude comfort and appearance.
The management of the industry by a "Taxi Commission" with a "Taxi Czar".
All of the above, strictly instituted and monitored, would produce an improved taxi industry. They are all aimed at improvement of the driverís and the industryís responsibility and professionalism. They offer criteria and methods of monitoring areas of concern to the industry, thereby enabling the city to produce a service industry better trained and responsible than is currently the case.
They would raise the standards to similar levels recently adopted and required in Toronto. They would therefore protect the city and the industry from an invasion of more unemployable applicants who would find the restrictions in Oshawa less than the licencing commissions in other jurisdictions. It would restrict those who would be just coming out to Oshawa to drive taxi while they wait a year or more to take the neighboring jurisdictionsí required courses.
The remainder of the report is concerned with the methods of issuing and the uses of the Taxi Vehicle Operatorís Licences. These are licences and should be treated as such. When the city allows loopholes or looks the other way when administrating the controls of these licences, the result is an inferior industry that does not promote the standard of service that the community deserves.
The following require careful attention by the regulatory body:
Removal of, or requirement to register, leasing and transfers of taxi vehicle licences.
Removal of all liens and mortgages from city taxi vehicle licences.
Redefine the by-law allowing for the willing of licences.
Adoption of a plan that would promote the opportunity and create more drivers who could achieve the status of being the holders of vehicle ownersí licences.
Removal of leasing, transfers and willing of taxi vehicle licences is the purest way to deal with the issue. It would remove the value that has been created by allowing the holders of the licences to operate them as commodities on their own, without operating actual taxis. It would prevent the trade of "plates" and place the control of those licences back to the city. It would force the owners to participate in the industry. It would create more driver/owners who would be directly responsible.
However, a total ban at this time on the leasing and transfer of the licences may be too punitive to those who now hold them. It would also be very disruptive to the existing industry and the community. The recommendations contained in this report pertaining to the existing and issuance of future vehicle licences will correct many of the faults found in the current system gradually. The restriction to only transfer licences to qualified drivers will reduce the value they have attained and therefore the resultant damages those values cause. The methods of governing the issue of the licences contained in this report will gradually result in redistributing many of the licences to qualified, disserving and responsible drivers.
The aim of this report has been to demonstrate a means of regulating the taxi industry that will be sensitive to each of the participating factions. It has offered solutions to existing faults in the regulations with consideration for the segment that currently controls the industry by holding the vehicle licences.
The suggestions contained provide, with no vindictiveness, a means to improve the industry, correcting many of the inequities, while being as sensitive as possible to those who have experienced an inadvertently created advantage. A careful analysis of all of the suggestions contained in this report will reveal that they are all aimed at producing a more efficient, responsible, superior taxi service industry for the community. The premise of this report has been that by creating, demanding and awarding positions of responsibility from the industry participants a superior service industry will be created. "Responsibility Produces Superiority."
The persons who prepared this report would like to thank the members of the CityWide Taxi Union and the drivers at Taxi-Taxi for their guidance and comments during the study and formation of this proposal. Thanks are also due to Durham College, Councilor Brian Nicholson, the staff and persons at city hall for their support and council. We should also like to take this opportunity to thank our families for their love and encouragement and for tolerating the time given to working on this project.
Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Taxi Licence Controls Harm the Commuter, The Irish Times, article, January 10, 1998.
Bruce Schaller, Schaller Report: The New York City Taxicab Fact Book, Published by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, May 1994.
Michel Trudel, Departmental Coordinator, Quebec Department of Transportation, Taxi Services, The Fundamentals of Taxi Regulation and The Quebec Experience, February 1995.
Toronto Licensing Commission, Effective Taxicab Driver Training Program, 1998.
Choong-Ho Kang, BSc(Eng), MSc(Eng) Taxi Deregulation: International Comparison, Institute for Transport Studies, The University of Leeds, Aug. 1998.
The Corporation of the City of Oshawa, By-Law 90-95, 1995.
Martin Viredius, editor of the magazine of the Swedish Transport workersí Union, The Total Breakdown of the Swedish Taxi Industry, Urban Transport magazine, published by the International Transport Workersí Federation, April/May 1997.
John E Dramer and William H. Mellor, Opening Bostonís Taxicab Market, 1995.
Terry Smythe, Taxicab Deregulation: Futility of Blessing, www.winnipeg.freenet,mb.ca/taxi/art0502.html, May 1997.
Terry Smythe, Calls for Taxicab Deregulation, As posted to the TAXI-L InterNet special interest group, June 16,1997.
Peter Holle, Taxi Deregulation Would Benefit Public, The Winnipeg Sun, May 19, 1997.
Irwin Stelzer, Abolish The Taxi Medallion System: Deregulation Would Benefit Drivers and Passengers Alike, American Enterprise Institute, December 1996.
Consumer Policy Institute, Putting Customers first: Taxicab Reform in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), April 1997.
Peter Cheney, Don Wanagas, Mike Slaughter, Toronto Star Taxi Plate/Leasing Investigation, A series of articles in the Toronto Star from March-April 1998.
Nabil Charbel, City Must Clean Up Taxi Business, Retail Wholesale Banner, Issue No.8, Winter 1999.
Dear Mayor and Councilors of the City of Oshawa,
In regard to the report, DCS-98-25, dated January 23, 1998 and file D2330, concerning "Special Wheelchair Accessible Taxi cab Vehicle Licenses", we, the members of Local 1688, Retail Wholesale Canada Canadian Service Sector Division of The United Steel Workers of America, and all the taxi drivers in the City of Oshawa, strongly protest the recommendation and the result of the above report.
We point out that under the heading, Analysis, all of the points made are reasons not to issue the Special Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Vehicle Licenses.
The report states:
In the sixteen months the four special licenses previously operated by Access Taxi have been out of service, "there have been no complaints from taxi patrons or any about the lack of wheelchair accessible taxi service".
"Currently in Oshawa, both Taxi Taxi and City Wide Taxi operate a total of five wheelchair accessible taxis. Previously, it was the feeling in the Taxi industry that the wheelchair accessible taxi service was over supplied in Oshawa." (The report does not give any evidence that this has changed. As drivers, we strongly support this statement and would further testify that the general taxi service in Oshawa is over supplied.)
The report then makes the recommendation to issue two special licenses. We point out that there is nothing in the report which supports this recommendation. Then, in its final recommendation, the report inexplicably increases the issue from 2 plates to 2 to 4 plates.
It then goes on to recommend a request for proposal (RFP) process to "ensure the licenses are properly operated by a taxi owner who has submitted the most realistic and knowledgeable plan and has the necessary operating arrangements and equipment to successfully provide this important service". We can demonstrate that this solution only benefits the current owners and brokerages and is of little gain, if any, in service to the citizens of Oshawa.
Taxi Taxi at present operates four wheelchair accessible taxis. Two of these are being operated on Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Plates, which has allowed them to increase their fleet, and the total fleet in Oshawa, by two vehicles. Should an owner(s) with Taxi Taxi receive two more of the Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Plates, they will not add two more wheelchair accessible vehicles, but will move the plates presently on the existing vans over to two more general taxis. The issued Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Plates will be placed on the already existing vans. In effect, two more cars will be created as opposed to two more Wheelchair Accessible Taxis.
City Wide Taxi previously operated two wheelchair accessible vans. They have reduced this service to one wheelchair accessible van, which has proved to be adequate to service the requests for wheelchair accessible vehicles. Should an owner(s) in City Wide Taxi receive two Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Plates, they will similarity move the plate from the existing van to a general taxi and, in the end, will increase the number of wheelchair accessible taxis, and their fleet, by one. This is supported by articles in their collective agreement with the union.
The Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Plates are only a means for the owners and the brokerages to increase their income. For the brokerages, any single plate added to their fleet automatically generates approximately $6000.00 revenue per annum. In addition, the owner of the plate would be the recipient of approximately $6000.00 per annum as their fee for supplying the plate to the brokerage. This is a total of $12,000.00 per annum that the drivers have to earn to pay the brokerages and the owners, off the top, in their pockets, with virtually no risk or expense. The owners of the plates are virtually guaranteed their income from each plate. The expenses, other than the $120.00 licensing fee, are non-existent. The costs are entirely born by the drivers who must fight increased fleets of cars for business that remains stagnant.
In total, a plated vehicle will receive approximately $40,000.00 in the fees charged to the drivers to work their cars or vans (calculated on an estimated average of 10 shifts per week @ $80.00 per shift x 52 weeks). One taxi plate must generate these figures even before the drivers pay for fuel or try to make a living for their families and themselves. Every time a plate has or will be issued, it takes these substantial amounts of cash out of the general business available to the drivers.
We feel that this situation creates a great hardship for the taxi drivers in Oshawa and provides little gain in service for the public. The drivers in truth are subsidizing the creation of these plates with the lost income that these plates will take out of the general business.
The following table demonstrates how the money in the City Wide Taxi for example is distributed and how the addition of two plates affects each of the participants. The "Gross Income" is an arbitrary figure based on the drivers paying $80.00 for one shift with the taxi averaging 10 shifts per week over 1 year and their earning a like amount for themselves after making payment to the brokerages and the owners.. The "Gross Income" for 44 and 46 Taxis remains the same because there is only so much business out there and the addition of plates does not in any way create new business. The figures have been rounded off for clarity. Also, the driver's fuel and other incidental expenses have been omitted.
This table demonstrates how the money for the brokerages and the plate owners increases while the income shared among the drivers and their individual earnings must decrease.
We would hope that the City would hold back on the distribution of these plates until a better solution can be found to serve the citizens of Oshawa. We offer the following suggestion for consideration.
Instead of creating specially designated Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Vehicle Licenses, write a by-law requiring that all taxi brokerages operating over 10 vehicles in the City of Oshawa operate at least one wheelchair accessible taxi on one of their existing plates acquired from the priority waiting list. Further, all brokerages would be required to supply one wheelchair accessible taxi for every twenty-five plates operated in that brokerage.
At present, this would provide for two Wheelchair Accessible Taxis in each of the existing two brokerages, which would be more than adequate service for the physically challenged in the city. A solution such as this would provide for the physically challenged, would not serve as a cash cow for the owners and the brokerages and would not be a financial hardship to the drivers.
Any increase in the number of taxi plates, special or general (i.e. from the priority waiting list) without full consideration of the whole financial picture and the repercussions to all sectors of the industry would be unsupportable.
We request an audience with council, or the appropriate committee, before the city takes any further action on these matters.
Thank you for considering our arguments and proposal.
If there are any questions please call:
The company we work for, CityWide Taxi, was unionized in 1991 under Local 1688, Retail Wholesale Canada. Over the years we have made several representations to City Hall, mostly on matters concerning meter increases and the issue of taxi vehicle licences.
About ten years ago a small third company started up in Oshawa. The backbone of this company was established by weaselling out of the city four handicaps van plates to "service the disabled." After about seven years the company folded and the city had to decide what to do with the handicaps van plates. Two of the plates were issued to the other non-unionized company. We however had wording in our collective agreement which made it impossible for our company to just absorb the extra licences.
We made a presentation to the committee at City Hall which administers the taxi industry in Oshawa. Our objections to the issue to our company of the remaining two licences were not that the special vehicles were unnecessary, but that the manner that the company wanted the licences issued to them was unjust. We were able to present a short document (attached) which in the main disclosed how the issue of these licences to our company, and the ones already issued to our competition, was not an altruistic act, but was totally self-serving. We were able to outline how the industry really works, alerting the councillors to many of the inequities that the particular issue of the licences in question and all plate issues. We also were able to demonstrate how the industry finances are controlled by the holders of the licences. In the main we were able to demonstrate how the companies were not the ones subsidising this venture but it was being totally supported by lost revenue to the drivers.
A key issue was that the licences would not be counted in the 1/1500 ratio of cabs to population. The councillors saw our point and denied the company the issue at that time. A report in a local newspaper with a headline that read something like "Council Opposes Issue of Handicaps Van Plates to Service the Disabled" caused the politicians to revisit the question. We once again presented our arguments. However, this time the council saw it was politically unwise to oppose the issue of the handicaps van plates. They issued them to our company, but attached to the issue was a freeze on the industry while a report would be submitted by the City Clerk after all concerned parties were to be heard.
We started work on our document, "The Taxi Drivers' Report". We waited for the City Clerk to ask us for our input but were never given a forum and were basically ignored. Finally one Friday in August, we were informed that the City Clerk would be presenting his report the following Monday to committee. Our report was going through constant revisions at that time, but we saw that we must have it ready to present in rebuttal to what we were certain was not going to be a balanced or comprehensive summation by the City Clerk. We printed it and presented as you have received it.
The City Clerk's report saw nothing wrong with the industry structure as it stood and promoted maintaining the status quo. Needless to say our document was more in depth and, if nothing else, educated the councillors about how the taxi industry really works.
The companies requested time to produce a counter report. They pooled their resources and had a law firm prepare their brief. When it was time for them to present their document, they failed to issue copies to the councillors or ourselves in advance of the meeting, a courtesy we had made when we made our presentation. Where we had presented council and the companies with our document so that they could understand and rebut our presentation, they denied us and council the opportunity to read theirs before discussing it with council. We are hopeful that council realised their tactic.
Unfortunately their document offers nothing new and demands a continuation of the status quo. It also makes misrepresentations about how the industry works. Council accepted their document without any opportunity for questions or rebuttal. That was the last meeting the committee had concerning the taxi industry and we are awaiting their response to the two reports and all submissions which they have received.
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