Prepayment, vomit fees: here’s what Toronto’s new taxi regime will mean for you

Prepayment, vomit fees: here’s what Toronto’s new taxi regime will mean for you

(Image: Maria Nepomnyashchikh) (Image: Maria Nepomnyashchikh)

In the world of Toronto transit, the TTC gets all the credit for being excessively difficult to improve in any way—but you know what other transportation service is an intractable nightmare world of obscure regulations and competing interests? The taxi industry.

For the better part of three years, city bureaucrats have been tackling the unenviable task of reforming the way Toronto’s taxis do business. Now, at long last, after more than 40 consultations, the city has released its final report on proposed changes to the way the industry is licensed and regulated. Many of these changes are aimed at reforming aspects of the system that are important mainly to drivers and other insiders. For example, several of the report’s recommendations have to do with eliminating Toronto’s two-tiered taxi-licensing system, so that there’s no longer a class of drivers who can’t rent or sell their cabs. That’s likely to be one of the more popular changes, at least among drivers who hold the crappier type of license.

There are some changes, though, that would have direct consequences for riders, should all the report’s recommendations be approved by city council. Some of them seem great, while others seem annoying and/or potentially expensive. Here’s a rundown of a few of the big-deal items.

1. Money up front

Under the proposed changes, cab drivers would be able to request up to $25 in advance from any rider. This is supposed to help prevent fare jumping. It’s not hard to envision problems with a cash-up-front taxi system, but the report proposes a review of the policy in 2016, to gauge its impact on passengers.

2. You puke, you pay

Any King West partier who regurgitates a night’s worth of bottle service onto the seat of a taxi may soon have yet another exorbitant nightlife expense added to his or her tab. The report calls for the creation of a standard, $25 vomit fee. It would also apply to other types of spillage and bodily ejecta. (Some taxi drivers already try to charge riders for this type of thing, but city bylaws don’t allow them to.)

3. Your credit card: never declined

Paying for a taxi ride with a card can be hit-or-miss, but the report recommends that the city require all cabs to equip themselves with terminals.

4. Wheelchair? No problem

One of the biggest objectives of the taxi review was to find a way of transforming Toronto’s fleet into a fully accessible one. The report recommends a phased implementation of wheelchair-accessible cabs. All new licensees would be required to accommodate disabled riders. This proposed change has been a source of controversy among industry insiders, because upgrading vehicles is expected to be a huge capital expense.