Uber drivers, and anyone else who drives for a private driving company, now has the green light to operate legally in Toronto.
The new vehicle-for-hire bylaw came into effect on Friday and “substantially changed” the city’s taxi landscape, the City of Toronto said on its website.
The city created the Private Transportation Company (PTC) licensing category to accommodate ride-sharing services like Uber, which were enormously popular without being exactly legal.
Private companies, like Uber, must now apply for the same license as taxi and limousine companies.
“This is a brand new approach to technology, to licensing, ” Tracey Cook, executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, explained. “They can have the inspections done at MTO licencing garages … they get a proper inspection done, we get proof of that proper inspection and they can submit the documentation.”
The city said the rules would allow for increased public safety and consumer protection, while also encouraging competition.
“Over the last two months, we have been working to come into compliance with Toronto’s new by-law. We have applied for our PTC license and look forward to receiving it from the City of Toronto soon,” Uber spokesperson Susie Heath told CityNews.
“The city has a phased application process and we expect to fulfill each phase as it becomes available.”
Heath said there are approximately 20,000 Uber drivers in Toronto.
City council approved the PTC category in May. A few highlights:
- With the new rules, taxis will be able to use surge-pricing – much like how Uber adds extra fees during busy times – but only for fares that are booked through an online app.
- The base fare for Uber will increase by 75 cents to $3.25.
- All vehicles must be inspected twice a year.
- Uber drivers will also be required to get $2 million in liability insurance.
- A proposal that would have required Uber vehicles to have winter tires was amended to allow for all-season tires.
The Uber ridesharing program was granted a city of Toronto taxi brokerage licence in January, putting it on equal ground as regulated taxi companies such as Beck and Royal.
“I feel confident that within the next month and a half, two months, we should be in a place where we have gotten to a licensed private transportation option in the city, that’s my goal,” Cook said.
Toronto, like many cities around the world, has been struggling to monitor ridesharing services like Uber since it first set up shop in 2012.
UberX, which has regular drivers transporting people in their private cars, lack the regulation and oversight of traditional taxi companies. Taxi companies have argued that this puts passenger safety in jeopardy while simultaneously driving traditional cabbies out of business.