Uber drivers face fines in Toronto, but should passengers also pay?

The city has charged 36 UberX drivers with operating unlicensed transportation services.

Drivers face penalties, but councillor warns passengers could also be fined

The city has charged 36 UberX drivers with operating unlicensed transportation services.

The charges — 72 in total — come as the city struggles to create a bylaw that will cover Uber's popular ride-sharing services.

Tracey Cook, the city's executive director of municipal licensing and standards, said the city would enforce bylaws against unlicensed limousine drivers, including Uber drivers who do not have the appropriate ground transportation licence.

Last week, Uber sent a letter to its drivers, assuring them that the San Fransico-based company will pay for any bylaw tickets they receive.

UberX is a network of drivers who use their own vehicles to pick up passengers who hail a ride using the Uber app. It is part of the Uber service, which also includes black car services.

Mayor John Tory said the city is working to create a single bylaw that covers both the taxi industry and Uber.

Tory backs fines

But in the meantime, the mayor said he supports the fines being distributed, though he still aims to make the current bylaw "more precise."

"The law is the law," he said repeatedly about Uber's unlicensed ground transportation.

He admits the fines will likely be subject to appeal. 

He said Cooke and her team will be working toward a solution this summer. "I can't say we've solved the problem yet," he said.

Passenger fines

Meanwhile, a city councillor is warning those visiting Toronto for the Pan Am Games that they could be fined as much as $20,000 for using the UberX ride-sharing service.

According to Jim Karygiannis's reading of Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, it is passengers, not Uber, who arrange rides with UberX drivers. He said the passengers are therefore responsible.

The councillor's warning comes after an Ontario Superior Court ruled city taxi bylaws don't apply to Uber. The judge ruled there was no evidence the company is operating as a taxi broker or that it breached city bylaws, saying the city's definition of a brokerage was too broad.

"I believe [the court ruling] took Uber, the company, off the hook, and put UberX passengers and drivers into the frying pan," said Karygiannis, who has been an unwavering supporter of the taxi industry in its fight against Uber.

He refers to Uber vehicles as "unlicensed bandit taxis."

"My advice to visitors and residents of Toronto is, when in doubt use a licensed taxicab," said the councillor.

The mayor does not want to see any passengers fined.

"The Uber operations and the drivers are the ones operating outside of the current law, not the passengers," said Tory.


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