Last year, London city council began a review and amendment of our current taxi and limousine bylaw.
Under the current bylaw, the only vehicles for hire allowed are taxis and limos that have a city plate allowing them to operate in London. Until a new bylaw is passed, ride-sharing companies are illegal in the city of London and subject to fines.
Council’s community and protective services committee began to review the bylaw with an eye to what the future holds. We heard from an Uber representative who made us aware that Uber would like to start operating in the city. Uber was asked to wait until our bylaw was in place, as they were not legally allowed to operate under the existing bylaw. Uber did not wait. In the summer of 2015 Uber launched, illegally, in London.
The committee has continued to work through the bylaw review, holding public participation meetings, and consulting with our city staff, the industry and the community. Recently a draft bylaw came before committee — with only four committee members present, they did not reach a decision on the draft bylaw, and the entire draft was sent to council on Jan. 31, 2017.
Council approved the draft bylaw with a few amendments. We increased the upfront costs paid by ride-sharing companies based on the number of vehicles that will be operating, and decreased the per trip costs. Additionally, the requirement for forward and rear facing cameras was added to include ride-sharing vehicles as well. The revised bylaw goes to council on Feb. 14 for approval.
I did not support requiring cameras in ride-sharing vehicles and here is why: these are private businesses. There are no other private businesses where city council mandates cameras. There are no other private businesses that the city regulates so closely.
We are being asked to regulate this industry under the premise of consumer protections. I would, and have, argued that there are many other businesses and services that have a much higher risk to the consumer that we don’t regulate as much as we do with the taxi industry. There are so many examples, but I will give you one.
Restaurants must be inspected before opening and then annually. This is to ensure that they are handling and preparing food safely to protect the public. It could be argued that we could protect consumers more by putting a camera in every commercial kitchen so that if someone gets food poisoning we can review what happened, but we don’t. We ensure that they have the knowledge in place and we inspect them annually. There is a very high risk to public safety in food preparation, yet our regulatory regime is a fraction of that in the taxi industry.
Personally, I would actually prefer to see the city move out of regulating the taxi industry as much as possible, and allow the market to regulate itself. By moving to a police check and vehicle inspection being the only requirements to open, we would allow the market to regulate itself. Consumers would determine the value of the product (fare cost), demand will regulate the number of products (cars/businesses) available.
London needs to be a city that is open to new business and innovation. We need to remove barriers and allow Londoners the opportunity to choose the service they want — through their business. A novel concept will often get a warm welcome, but only a good product will have longevity in that market.
- Virginia Ridley, City Councillor (Ward 10)