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Fair and equitable compensation for taxi plate owners.

Don’t forget to tip your taxi driver

Ah, the holidays. When everyone gets extra time to relax, visit and generally enjoy life – except for those who don’t.

A slew of undersung workers keeps Toronto running while the rest of us pause, from hotel cleaners, transit workers and emergency room staff, to cooks, servers and young journalists stuck with New Year’s Eve shifts (sob story: it happened to me).

 

High on the list are paid drivers, for whom the season means carting around joyous revellers while being either ignored or drunkenly yammered at. An etiquette review: Don’t squish in more people than there are seat belts, don’t ghost on a ride you’ve requested, and do your best to keep the particularly inebriated from barfing in the car.

 

And, above all else, don’t calculate the cost of getting from here to there without factoring in a tip.

 

Now, there’s myriad justifiable complaints with both traditional taxis and “ride-sharing” services (which provide rides for money, and don’t share anything).

 

Yes, it’s ridiculous that taxi drivers often still refuse to take payment by card, or charge extra to do so. Yes, summoning a random stranger with a few swipes still seems a bit sketchy, and having to request trunk space in a ride-hailing vehicle is annoying.

 

And indeed, map apps have resulted in a generation of drivers with no idea where they’re going, which can be genuinely dangerous. In March, a young ride-hailing passenger died in a highway crash; last week, city council voted to consider reinstituting mandatory driver-safety training that was eliminated in 2016.

 

I’m not saying drivers are superheroes, or even upstanding citizens. I’m saying times are tough and they deserve a tip.

 

By now, it’s clear that ride-hailing has severely damaged the livelihood of old-fashioned taxi drivers. In Toronto, owning a city-taxi plate used to provide a reasonable living and a bit of a retirement fund.

 

Since the arrival of Uber, Lyft and smaller services such as the female-targeted DriveHer, the value of those plates has plummeted 70 per cent in less than a decade. Infuriated cabbies have launched a $1.7-billion class action against the city because of it.

 

Their argument, which has merit, is that by not regulating ride-hailing, the city left cabbies impossibly outnumbered. There are about 5,500 taxi drivers in Toronto, compared with between 50,000 and 75,000 ride-hailing drivers.

 

Basic supply makes requesting a Lyft much faster than calling a taxi, and so more people are choosing to do it. This story is playing out all over the world.

 

In New York, the taxi licenses known as medallions used to cost up to US$1-million, but now sell for about US$200,000. There, too, ride-hailing has resulted in cabbies not just losing their nest eggs but being plunged into negative equity.

 

Eight New York taxi drivers have committed suicide this year. According to their families, many were scrambling to support themselves while paying off huge loans now worth more than the medallions themselves.

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We are representing the interests of all Australian taxi plate owners in response to financial losses in income and asset value forced upon us.

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