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Toronto’s taxi drivers’ bad public relations

Taxi drivers protest in front of city hall against the Uber ridesharing car service in Toronto December 9, 2015. Toronto's city council voted in October to create a legal framework covering ride-sharing companies such as Uber Technologies Inc, asking city staff to suggest rules by next spring that would create a "level playing field" with taxis. It also passed a motion asking Uber to stop operations in the city until the rules are in place. Uber's general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said the company intends to ignore that request, media reported on Twitter after the meeting concluded. REUTERS/Chris Helgren


The militant taxi drivers of Toronto seem to be determined to dig themselves deeper into a pit of distress and obsolescence, all to protest the increased convenience of Uber's technological service to tens of thousands of car passengers in the city.

The United Taxi Workers Association of the Greater Toronto Area are threatening to obstruct traffic on the Family Day long weekend in Toronto. That may include disrupting the NBA All-Star basketball game at the Air Canada Centre – the first time the event has been held outside the United States – and the Canadian International Auto Show around the corner. It won't warm Torontonians' hearts and minds if, as predicted, the day of the game turns out to be the coldest day this year.

Sensibly, at least one major company, Beck Taxi, has urged taxi drivers not to take part in blockades or strikes. Indeed, the word "strike" doesn't really apply. People who sometimes travel in a city by taxi are not "management," from which workers withhold services. Customers of taxis and Uber drivers alike are not companies that employ taxi drivers.

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It's true that electronic technology will reduce demand for traditional taxi drivers. But taxis aren't disappearing. There will continue to be convenience in hailing down taxis by waving an arm or approaching a taxi stand. And older or disabled people who need assistance may still want a traditional taxi.

Mayors such as John Tory of Toronto and Don Iveson of Edmonton, and their city councils, are constructively working on how to shape fair and practical regulatory regimes for insurance and taxation of the private business of offering rides for money.

In contrast, Sajid Mughal, the president of a group called iTaxi Workers Association, has said that Mr. Tory's and the city council's recommendations "will spell the end of Toronto's taxi industry as we know it."

That is as it should be – the industry will not end, but it has to change. Ride-sharing is of great benefit to countless passengers. And Uber itself may some day be overtaken by other, better technologies. That is the way of the modern world. The traditional taxi industry is a cartel structure restricting competition. It hasn't been good for consumers or drivers, and its ride is at an end.

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