City council has found out that the Vehicle for Hire bylaw that they passed earlier this spring has a bunch of loop holes. Councillors are angry that private transportation providers, or PTPs as they’re known have exposed some problems.
So community and public services committee Monday voted for some changes to the bylaw that governs private ride share companies, like TappCar and Uber. They’ve made it so the decals or markings on the vehicles are very discreet, so that you’d have to be right next to the car to see them.
Also, the fines for picking up a passenger who hails a ride goes from $250 to $1,000 on the first offense. It doubles to $2,000 the second time a driver is caught.
“We have seen the parasitic nature of the PTPs at these sites,” Coun. Mike Nickel told the meeting. “Where literally they were grabbing people by the arm,” he said.
“PTPs are still being hailed,” Coun. Dave Loken told reporters. “We said when we passed the original bylaw that shouldn’t be the case. We said we were going to try to even the playing field and the playing field is anything but even at this point. So we’ve got a lot more work to do here. I’m frustrated with it.”
Loken expects the problem to continue unless the city puts significant staff on the streets to investigate. “We have to be enforcing at odd hours of the day. We have to have the resources to do that. But with any bylaw and especially one like this that seems to be evolving and changing all the time we need stringent enforcement. That’s the only way that we’re going to be able to ensure that the playing field is relatively even.”
TappCar spokesman Pascal Ryffel said the problem is the terminology of what is something traditional like a taxi stand, or what has been arranged in the emerging market like at the Heritage Festival or in shopping malls where vehicles are parked, ready to be hired.
It’s a difficult distinction said Coun. Scott McKeen who has complained about the practice. “To me, that is acting like a taxi stand,” McKeen said. “I know I talked to one company official who argued, no it was just insuring that they had cars handy but people still had to order them through an ap, but I think that’s splitting hairs. I think it looks like a taxi stand.”
“I think there’s a big difference between what a taxi stand is and what dedicated parking spots are,” Ryffel countered. “We don’t have any taxi stands, we never had taxi stands. All we’ve had is dedicated parking spots and it’s certainly our opinion it’s well with in the bylaw.”
After passing the decal, and hailing fine in the bylaw, councillors also asked for a report that will come in the new year on what impact the use of dedicated parking spots has had on the traditional taxi industry.
“One of the things I’ve learned in the short period dealing with this portfolio is if nothing else, the industry is very dynamic right now,” said David Hales, the city’s branch manager for development services. “Anything we do, I described this to somebody last week, it’s like trying to nail jello to a tree in trying to legislate it.”
Loken said it’ll probably run into the next council term after the October 2017 election because they still have to sort out the fare issue, and merge upcoming provincial legislation into how the city governs the ride share industry.