Taxi Industry New Year’s Resolutions – Backgrounder
With regard to refusal of short fares, Moini believes the current situation is being caused by a combination of lack of enforcement by City by-law officers and the extreme plunge in income drivers have seen since UberX arrived in Toronto: “Drivers who are making half of what they made last year are taking the risk of refusing short fares because to stay afloat financially, they really need those longer fares. This dynamic is terrible for our industry, very bad public relations at a time when we need to be doing the best job possible. We encourage anyone refused a short fare to record the cab number which is on the door, and report it to the cab brokerage and/or the City. With a combination of public awareness and enforcement, we can fix this problem.”
The second action item on the list is the smell of taxi cabs: “They are public vehicles, most of them on the road 24/7 for their five year life cycle. It’s a challenge, but again, we can work on it.”
The TTA has made an arrangement with Mr. Shine, the car wash under Toronto City Hall, to develop a “30/30” package: Mr. Shine manager Peter Avramis says, “We’ve put together a special taxi package at $23.99 plus HST, which includes detailing and deodorizing, and it will take less than 30 minutes.” (The standard detail package costs $50 and takes an hour, which is too long for working cabbies to be off the road.)
“We also validate parking, so taxi drivers can get in free, pay less than $30 for a comprehensive clean including deodorizing, and be out in 30 minutes. We call it the ‘Mr. Shine Express Taxi Service,’” Avramis says.
If a rider is in a taxi which appears unclean – or even unsafe – Moini encourages customers to contact the brokerage directly with the number of the cab.
“Last week a client contacted a brokerage to tell them they had seen a car with a headlight out, looking unclean. The brokerage had that car removed immediately,” Moini says. “We encourage everyone who has a similar complaint to contact the brokerage concerned immediately. The number of the cab is on the door, 8 inches high. Please make note of it, and call the brokerage.”
With regard to encouraging drivers to adopt a more friendly attitude, the TTA is working with industry partners to develop a training program which will invite drivers to work on their people skills and attitudes.
“Most of our drivers are great, 100 per cent committed to providing pleasant service. Others could use a refresher. We believe every person is responsible for their own attitude and everyone can choose to do better, for the benefit of their own profitability and for the benefit of the taxi industry as a whole,” Moini points out. “Our customers deserve a pleasant ride with an attentive driver.”
Encouraging drivers to stay off of their cell phones is part of good service, Moini notes. “Taxi drivers work long hours when most Canadians are already home. They miss their families and often use cell phones to stay in touch; however, riders mention how much they dislike this. We urge drivers to use their cell phones at times when they do not have a fare in their cab.”
Credit card machines
With regard to having a working credit card machine, “This is a necessity in 2015. The popularity of apps which allow riders to pay through a pre-registered credit card has exploded. Every cab driver in Toronto needs to have a working credit card machine and the TTA is in discussions with service providers to work out a convenient deal with cabbies.”
Moini does note, however, that most senior citizens and many other people do not wish to use credit cards for taxi fares. “We have to make sure they have a cash option,” he points out.
Bike lanes are a relatively recent phenomenon, and cab drivers have traditionally been allowed extra access to the inside lanes of Toronto streets in order to pick up or discharge passengers, Moini points out. “So drivers and cyclists are learning how to share the curb lane. It’s a ‘growing pain’ for Toronto, one that everyone supports. It’s a matter of awareness and education.”