September 9, 2015 by Peter Henderson - THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO – Beck Taxi is calling on the City of Toronto to lower the price of a cab fare as taxi companies deal with falling ridership in the face of competition from upstarts like Uber.
The Toronto-based taxi company is organizing a petition to submit to the city’s ongoing transportation review asking for more affordable fares.
Cities set the price of a taxi trip, and Beck says Toronto’s rates are some of the highest in North America.
The success of Uber’s ride-sharing platform led Toronto to launch a wide-ranging review of its transportation policies in July.
Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard said the petition is meant to add more voices from the public into that review.
“We want to make sure we’re advocating for the people who are using taxi services as well as the people who are providing that service,” she said.
Uber has cut in to the taxi business since its debut in Toronto in 2014.
Hubbard said taxi companies need to be able to compete on price with Uber, which offers lower rates across the board, in order to halt the slide in ridership.
“The meter rate doesn’t matter if nobody’s riding,” Hubbard said.
The petition calls for Toronto to lower both the base fare of $4.25 and the in-transit fee of 25 cents per 0.143 kilometres.
Hubbard said the company also wants Toronto to lower the price that taxi drivers pay to renew their licences, which she said is also among the highest in North America.
“We’ve got a situation where we’ve got a high meter rate and the highest fees, couldn’t we balance things out?” she said.
But Sajid Mughal, head of the union of taxi drivers known as the iTaxiworkers Association, said lowering fares only makes sense if Uber is out of the picture.
“If Uber is still there and you lower the price, the drivers are already suffering and they will suffer more,” he said.
Mughal said taxi drivers have far more overhead than Uber drivers, including the cost of commercial insurance, licence fees and the brokerage fees they pay to dispatching companies.
The taxi industry is willing to lower fares, he said, but not if Uber is allowed to continue to operate outside of the taxi regulations.
“Even if you drop the price the expenses are still there and Uber will still be taking customers,” he said.