The beleaguered taxi industry is pledging to clean up its act in 2016 by making good on six New Year’s resolutions that address the things passengers complain about the most.
“Sometimes it takes a wake up call,” full-time taxi driver/owner Joel Barr said Wednesday of Uber, the California conglomerate with an app that pairs paying passengers with people driving their own private vehicles.
“The (taxi) industry’s into it. There’s a lot of money involved, a lot of families have been affected, and they know they have to change and that’s just what we’re going to do.”
A taxi driver in Toronto for 35 years, Barr was standing near his gleaming black cab after a trip through the Mr. Shine car wash in the underground parking lot at city hall.
He was there on behalf of the Toronto Taxi Alliance – the lobby group representing 4,800 taxi drivers, licence holders, brokerages and fleet operators. The TTA picked the location to demonstrate the industry’s commitment to provide cars “which are clean inside and out.”
Car wash owner Peter Avramis worked out an arrangement with the TTA to create the “Mr. Shine Express Taxi Service.” Cabs can get detailed and deodorized at a discount rate in less than 30 minutes.
The TTA’s other New Year’s resolutions include: accept the first available customer regardless of where they are going, maintain a courteous, attentive attitude, ensure driver cellphones are turned off, accept all forms of payment and respect cyclists and stay out of bike lanes.
But Barr said the six resolutions alone won’t be enough to woo back passengers as long as UberX drivers can undercut fares by operating illegally free of regulation and fees.
He anxiously awaits the creation of new regulations – sometime this winter – that Mayor John Tory promises will lead to a more equitable and competitive environment for taxis.
“The taxi industry is in dire need right now,” Barr said. He added costly commercial insurance “is on that car,” while UberX drivers mistakenly believe they only need personal automobile insurance to carry paying passengers.