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article imageToronto transportation: A week in review

By Georgia Williams     Nov 2, 2015 in Lifestyle
Toronto - It was an eventful week for Toronto transportation. From kittens to lawsuits there is never a dull moment in the city of perpetual gridlock.
The ever defiant UberX started the week failing to comply (yet again) with a city wide ban on the ride sharing service. City Council issued a formal letter in mid-October ordering UberX to comply with a city wide ban council passed in September. UberX first started servicing Toronto in 2014 and is now on track to being this year’s biggest and most lucrative app.
On Thursday (October 28th) UberX flexed it social media muscle with their #UberKittens event held in conjunction with National Cat Day. For $30 an UberX driver would bring a kitten to you and you could have kitten play time for 15 minutes. The event which aims to pair adoptable cats with forever homes also raised money for local cat shelters and animal hospitals. Uber held similar kitten delivery events in cities across North America.
UberX was still riding high off #UberKitten when the Toronto Star got a hold of internal document from one of Canada’s biggest automobile insurance providers, Aviva on Saturday. The documents stated the company was going to begin cracking down on UberX drivers who had personal automobile insurance instead of commercial insurance which is required to offer a taxi service. Aviva plans to cancel the policies of violators. Gordon Rasbach, with the Aviva legal and fraud management department, told the Star that a tipster had triggered the investigation that has already resulted in four terminations.
“The evidence we gathered confirmed that information provided by these policyholders at the time of application for insurance was not correct and appropriate underwriting action was taken,” he wrote in an email to the Star. “We encourage Uber drivers to speak with their brokers or insurers regarding commercial automobile insurance. By ensuring they have the proper insurance; Uber drivers are protecting both themselves and their customers.”
The Red Rocket was hit with bad news on two fronts this past week. First their ongoing dispute with Bombardier over streetcars continues with the TTC higher ups vowing to sue Bombardier for not delivering the promised amount of streetcars in the time allotted them. The TTC ordered the 204 new high-tech streetcars from the large scale vehicle manufacturer in 2009, for more than $1 billion. While creating 204 state-of-the-art streetcars does take time Bombardier promised to have at least 60 operating in the city by the end of this year, so far we have 10. “We've received schedule after schedule, we've been given assurance after assurance," TTC CEO Andy Byford told the CBC. “The 10 streetcars we have in service are fabulous. The issue is we just want more of them. At the end of the day I don't want the money. I want the streetcars.”
Later in the week the TTC issued a report indicating that the ridership target for this year was well below the projected 545 million rides it had projected for the year.
The adjusted amount was reduced by six million dollars to 539 million rides. Officials are attributing the low ridership to weather and service disruption, however with the Pan Am Games and Para Pan Am games bringing thousands of tourists in t the city over a five week period in the summer the downturn in ridership may be ever greater than forecasted. The Toronto Transit Commission is facing a $95 million budget shortfall for the 2016 operating year and a number of suggestions are bouncing around. From a 25 cent fare increase to Metro passes, to a 10 cent rise for all fares. Byford told City News that a fare increase is very likely, while Mayor Tory has said nothing is set in stone.
While a fare increase may help the TTC meet its financial obligations, the TTC's Deputy CEO and Chief Customer Service Officer Chris Upfold told the CBC that a 10 cent fare increase costs the TTC up to three million rides a year, which makes one wonder if they would be better off looking for other ways to raise capital.
Toronto Taxis
Not only did clocks lose an hour during the early hours of November 1, Toronto taxi meters were lowered by a dollar at midnight as well.
The meters in cabs across the city were rolled back from their current $4.25 base rate to $3.25. The move which was voted in by city council in September is aimed at helping GTA cabbies compete with ride sharing services like UberX. While commuters were happy about the dollar decrease Toronto taxi drivers felt as though this was another move to starve them out of existence. “This decrease is going to make worse conditions for cab drivers by just dropping $1,” Taxi Workers Association president Sajid Mughal told the Toronto Sun. “It won’t be decreasing insurance or plate lease prices, but no one else will bear the cost except the cab drivers. I don’t see us being more competitive with Uber, it may happen, but I don’t see any benefit yet.”
Some cabbies blamed Mayor Tory for the current predicament the taxi industry is in. “This is ridiculous,” Taxi driver Ilias Christofilopoulos told the Toronto Sun. “I come out yesterday, Saturday, and I made $25. I blame the mayor — John Tory. We lost the business. Uber has no insurance, no licence, they don’t pay taxes. I don’t think we can survive.”
While the mayor believes the move will make taxis a more viable option for commuters. “The mayor believes Toronto should have a competitive taxicab industry that serves both the public and drivers well,” Mayor Tory’s spokesman Keerthana Kamalavsan said. “This will make moving around the city more affordable for the public, and it will help the traditional taxicab industry, which supported these changes during the most recent review, compete with disruptive technology like Uber.”
Next week the province is set to weigh in on the UberX ban and announce they are drafting legislation to officially integrate the ride sharing app into the Ontario transportation grid.
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