Press release: Changes needed for VFH in Ottawa

For Immediate Release


Ottawa—Today, at the Community and Protective Services Committee (CPSC), Councillors Shawn Menard and Catherine McKenney gave direction to staff to review the possibility of increasing licensing fees for, and introducing an overall cap on, vehicles affiliated with Private Transportation Companies (PTCs), such as Uber and Lyft.

The direction comes in response to a disappointing staff report-back on negotiations with these companies for a higher accessibility surcharge. This surcharge exists in lieu of PTCs providing accessible service to Ottawa residents, an option only available to PTCs and not other taxis.

In 2019, Council asked staff to renegotiate this surcharge to be at least $0.30 per ride, but today members of CPSC heard that the existing $0.07 surcharge had only been negotiated upward by $0.03 ($0.02 after inflation) for a new total of $0.10.

“As long as PTCs are able to increase their market share relative to traditional taxis, accessible taxi services will be at risk,” said Councillor Menard. “Working conditions will also continue to worsen on average for workers in the Vehicle for Hire market if that trend continues, and what city staff have dubbed the ‘buyer beware’ options (PTCs) could become all that is left for consumers, able-bodied or otherwise”.

Since PTCs were legalized in 2016, research from all over the continent has shown that their entry into the market has led to worsening congestion, an uptick in traffic accidents, more GHG emissions and a weakening of transit ridership.

Currently, PTCs in Ottawa are subject to three categories of licensing fees based on fleet size: 1-24, 25-99, or 100+ affiliated vehicles.

At committee today, Menard noted that both Uber and Lyft can be expected to have thousands of affiliated vehicles on the road outside of the pandemic, and that the fee categories should therefore be updated to reflect that reality, and that given the known negative impact of unlimited PTC vehicles on the road, a cap should also be reviewed.

Today’s direction at CPSC follows on the heels of a position paper on Vehicles for Hire (VFH) in Ottawa released last week by Councillor Menard titled Vehicles for Hire in Ottawa: Smarter Transportation Planning for a Better City.

This position paper argues that the city’s regulatory framework and master plans should be assessed against the following core principles when it comes to VFH:

  • A Focus on Equity and Accessibility: Ottawa must be a city that welcomes and accommodates all people of all abilities. The VFH framework and city plans should ensure the city’s attempts to provide equity and accessibility in our transportation system are not undermined.
  • A Focus on Mobility, Modern Transportation and Environment: Ottawa has declared a climate emergency. The new OP and TMP must acknowledge the threats posed by irreversible climate change and consider the effects of increased congestion that stem from the introduction of unlimited PTC drivers into the VFH market. Further, our VFH framework should be designed to support the short-, medium- and long-term transportation goals of the city as expressed in the new TMP, OP, and supporting plans and policies. Cities across the country and throughout the world are shifting to sustainable modes of transportation, and in Ottawa, our draft OP documents highlight this as part of ‘the 5 Big Moves’.
  • A Focus on Fairness and Safety: Private Transportation Companies have entered and ‘disrupted’ transportation systems worldwide. The TMP, OP and VFH framework should ensure that workers rights and safety are not easily undermined by private actors. The City of Ottawa is updating its Road Safety Action Plan and reviewing Vision Zero policy. The TMP, OP and VFH framework should be designed to encourage new transportation methods that increase safety for Ottawa residents and workers.

The report also lays out a host of potential options for city staff and members of council and the public to consider that would bring the VFH market more in line with these principles, including: introducing a cap on the total number of PTC affiliated vehicles in Ottawa, amendments to or overhaul of the taxi plate system, and the possibility of a publicly owned and provided taxi and delivery service in Ottawa.

Click here to download the direction to staff [PDF].

Click here to download the report [PDF].

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