Many Canadian cities are moving to ban Uber and Toronto's licensing department has launched a court injunction to stop the ride-sharing service, but Toronto mayor-elect John Tory says municipalities need to get with the times.
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Tory, who was elected last month and doesn't officially take office until Dec. 2, appeared to defy his own licensing standards office Tuesday after its manager held a press conference to raise safety concerns about Uber, a San Francisco-based taxi-hailing application.
Launched in 2009, Uber is a smartphone app that connects riders to drivers. The company now operates in more than 200 cities in 45 different countries.
The company's UberX app allows anyone to turn their car into a taxi — passengers can use the program to request a ride from any other UberX user.
Tracey Cook, executive director of Toronto's licensing and standards department, says the unregulated service poses a risk to the residents of Toronto, and users of Uber do so at their own peril.
But Tory said launching a court injunction isn't the way to deal with Uber and services like it.
"I just think we use what I'll call old-fashioned methods like court cases … when in fact these kinds of technological changes are here to stay," said Tory.
Tory said Uber's bosses must understand that they can't operate outside city regulations, but also said city bureaucrats and traditional taxi companies must acknowledge that the taxi business is changing.
"You sit down [with the operators] and sort these things out," said Tory. "But you don't sort them out from the premise that says these applications are going away, that we're going to go back to the way things were before.
"We have to work something out that protects public safety and makes sure we have fair competition but also doesn't try to pretend something like Uber is just going to go away because it's not."
Tory said the courts are a "blunt, expensive time-consuming instrument" that are "not really meant to resolve regulatory problems."
Uber fighting city
Metro Morning host Matt Galloway asked Tory if the city has a responsibility to protect taxi operators who play by the rules. Taxi owners pay thousands of dollars for their taxi plates, a cost Uber operators don't have to incur.
"There have been a lot of instances in recent history where technology has made a lot of changes necessary for people who are in business of one kind or another," said Tory.
Uber has said there won't be any changes to its operations, and the company is asking customers to sign a petition against the city.
According to the company, the real issue is the taxi industry protecting its profit margins.
"Taxi companies are pressuring city council to stifle competition and protect their monopoly on Toronto’s streets," the company said in a statement.
"Ride sharing brings costs down for consumers and creates thousands of new jobs for drivers. It expands transportation options for Torontonians and will ultimately lead to fewer cars on our roads."
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday that despite Tory's position on Uber, the ride-sharing service would still be subject to enforcement in the nation's capital.
"I want the company to follow the rules like every other taxi driver has to, and that's our bottom line," Watson said.