By Dr. Yemi Adediji
Research findings from a report authored by researchers at the Urban Analytics Institute have been implemented in the revised regulations for ride-hailing services to improve safety and other related operational measures.
Amendments to the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 546 came into effect on January 2nd, 2020. These amendments affect the areas of safety, privacy and accessible transportation and are the culmination of a multi-year review of Chapter 546 of the municipal code (Chapter 546) by the City’s Municipal Licensing and Standards office.
The review sought input from the public, especially drivers and users of ride-hailing and conventional taxi services. The City also commissioned studies, including accessibility strategy research and consultation, a transportation impacts study, and an economic impact analysis. Independently from the research commissioned by the City, the Urban Analytics Institute (UAI) produced a study in June 2019, examining the policy impacts of regulations governing transportation services in the vehicle-for-hire industry (VFH) with several findings and recommendations.
Some of the UAI report recommendations have informed the January 2nd changes to Chapter 546.
The UAI report recommended correction to the discrepancy between regulations governing taxicabs, which required drivers to have a three-year minimum driving record, and those governing the Private Transportation Company (PTC) drivers, which required only a one-year minimum driving record. The January 2nd amendments, as was recommended by the UAI report, now stipulates a 3-year minimum driving record requirement for drivers in the VFH sector and others.
Another safety recommendation made in the UAI report was to require the same or similar driver training for taxicab and PTC drivers. The revised regulations have made changes to streamline driver training. Other Chapter 546 safety-related amendments include a requirement for all hand-held devices to be mounted, bringing PTC vehicles more in-line with taxicab safety practices, and mandatory notices on VFH vehicles for passengers to watch for passing bicycles.
The UAI report also found that while taxicabs are required to be equipped with cameras for driver and passenger safety, this was not a requirement for PTC vehicles. Many PTC drivers, however, choose to use in-vehicle cameras to promote safety. The January 2nd amendments now require PTC drivers who use cameras to disclose this to passengers. While this is short of requiring PTC vehicles to have in-vehicle cameras, this may go some way to improve safety by influencing driver and passenger behaviour.
Finally, the UAI report noted that Chapter 546 required taxicabs and PTCs to provide accessible transportation but with an added requirement for taxicab drives to take an accessibility training course every four years. The January 2nd amendments have overhauled this requirement for VFH industry drivers to maintain some accessible vehicles in favour of contributions to an accessibility fund to be disbursed to taxicabs providing accessible services. This means that PTCs and taxicabs have the choice of either contributing to the fund or providing accessible services.
The UAI report made several other findings and recommendations that have not been incorporated into Chapter 546 amendments. One example is requiring all for-hire vehicles to be environmentally sensitive by deploying fuel-efficient technologies or other means. This measure was pre-existing to the January 2nd amendments for taxicab vehicles but has now been removed.
To obtain the UAI report, please click HERE.