New Taxi and Uber By-Law

Taxis have long been debated in Council – concerns have been long wait times, no provision for Uber, no accessible taxis and from Taxi owners, that fares are too low. In September of 2023, a draft by-law was submitted to Council which would regulate all similar services collectively called “Vehicles for Hire”; that is, Taxis, Transportation Network Companies – (T.N.C.  e.g. Uber or Lyft), Limousines and Designated Drivers. A Survey of cab owners and the public provided some feedback and at the April 24 Council meeting, the new bylaw was passed.  But Kelly Paton, owner of Cobourg Cab, predicted an influx of drivers in the first 6 months resulting in job losses and possible closure altogether (of taxi companies). Then in 18 months there could well be a bigger gap in the market than there already is. Kelly based her prediction on the experience of other cities.

The new by-Law certainly makes big changes:

Summary of changes

  • Fares would no longer be set by the Town but each V.F.H. Industry would be permitted to establish its own tariff/fare model.– this is in line with current Uber practice.
  • A single licence would apply to all drivers of vehicles for hire
  • All Vehicles for hire and their drivers would be subject to the same rules – these are not as onerous as previously.

After Kelly’s presentation, Mayor Cleveland said he understood her concerns but could not predict the future – perhaps there would not be a problem. He also suggested that the By-Law could be changed in the future if necessary – he would welcome hearing from Taxi owners about any problems. Brent commented that Peterborough’s experience was that taxi users tended to stay with what they knew and that “you never know until you try”.

In addition, it was announced that:

The Town of Cobourg has been working with other lower-tier municipal clerks in sharing the proposed regulations and provisions with the idea that they will adopt the VFH by-law to allow for consistency and collaboration in licensing of defined vehicles across the County of Northumberland. The goal of this initiative would be to make it easier for all Vehicle for Hire companies to get licensed and remove any repetitive administrative burden. There would therefore be one set of licensing requirements for multiple municipalities, eliminating the duplication of processes from one jurisdiction to another and help support more health and safety and consumer protection of all residents.

Lucas commented that if the provincial or federal government were to step in and provide some guidance and/or policy direction it wouldn’t be up to the lower tier to deal with the issue one at a time.

The By-Law passed and is now in effect. There’s no confirmation yet that Uber will now operate in Cobourg although it seems that Uber Eats already does.

Resources

Previous Cobourg Blog Reports

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marya
16 days ago

The excessive stress on or the shortage of taxis can definitely be connected to the demise of the Fixed Routes Transit System in Cobourg and the adoption of their problematic “On Demand System.”

Florence Fletcher
22 days ago

We volunteer at the information desk at Northumberland Hills Hospital and in that capacity we regularly call for taxis for people. There is definitely a shortage as many times people must wait up to an hour for a taxi to be available. Sometimes there is no one available to even answer the phone at the taxi location.

beach lover
Reply to  Florence Fletcher
22 days ago

The shortage is a real problem. If it rains or a person arrives on Via Rail without pre-booking a taxi (always chancy given rail delays) then they’re quite often out of luck as there are no taxis available or even anyone answering the phones.

John st resident
22 days ago

Great job Council listening to the public on their needs and passing these bylaw changes to allow ride share in the county which is desperately needed with our sparse transit system and expensive and meager current system (2 taxis total). Numerous times the wait time was so long I could have walked faster.

The fact that it’s close to $40 to take a taxi to Port Hope one way and Kelly says the prices are too low says a lot!

As someone who doesn’t own a car this is huge for me.

Sandpiper
22 days ago

We always used a Cobourg Taxi firm for the Retirement home when ever any seniors
wanted to get out or had a Medical Apt. or a show they wanted to see. It was great so much so that others started to use the Taxi sys . as well
The Cab drivers were Well Groomed , Courteous the Cabs were clean and well maintained .
Infact the Retirement competition also started using the same Co as it was cheaper and more reliable than Owning , Maintaining ,Insuring and having a paid driver on staff at beckon call The Cab Co eventually bought 2 Vans that could get wheel chairs in .
The Cab Co was sold several yrs latter and things went down hill from there.
No Free Rides and if the Riders are Not Clean and respectful they are out of the Cab.
Works Both Ways

Try thinking Outside the Cobourg Box

Cobourg taxpayer
23 days ago

Sounds like VFH is going on the open market in Cobourg. Which is fine as we live in a mostly capitalist society. Past experience in Cobourg was the drivers were unreliable and unprofessional. Recent Uber drivers in Toronto were angry immigrants not able to understand why they can’t make a living in the most expensive city in North America. Perhaps some will have better luck here. VFH has to be a tough way to make a living in this very expensive town. Clean cars, reliable English speaking drivers that are able to navigate should be successful. However Kelly is likely correct, there will be a flood of drivers who then realize it’s a tough way to make a living, which may or may not leave enough VFH. I think the market is quite small in Cobourg.

Bryan
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
23 days ago

Cobourg Taxpayer,
Perhaps change the Town’s transit system to a non-bus system similar to Innisfil (pop 36K). The town would provide a ride subsidy to the cabs/Uber to reduce the an “appropriate” ride fare. Minimum ride distance rules and other controls would be needed to prevent/limit abuse, such as Innisfil experienced initially. Savings would result from reduced operations, maintenance and capital equipment costs

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
23 days ago

I googled Innisfil Transit Bryan. Says Uber is a pilot project of 8 months run on a voucher system, vouchers are hard to get it says, limited in number, you must have an UBER account and use the APP once again eliminating people without cell phones.

Public transit should be for all even those who can not afford cars or cell phones, too young to have them, mentally challenged and unable to use them or any other reason.

Learn more by googling Innisfil transit – anyone who is interested.

Bryan
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Dave,
I said “perhaps”. As an example of an transit alternative and a way of making cabs/Uber service more viable. Innisfil’s system is not perfect, for the reasons you mentioned. These issues can be resolved.

There may (are??) other alternatives that should be considered also

Are you suggesting that Cobourg’s transit system works just fine and is not in need of significant improvement?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Dave, if almost free to the user transit is, as you suggest, to help those “who cannot afford cars or cell phones“, shouldn’t the number of free travel vouchers be limited? I believe that the Innisfil voucher system was instituted because teens were abusing the free Uber to travel 100 yards to a nearby Starbucks. The current Cobourg transit system costs taxpayers about $1.8M each year. That amount would fund a lot of free travel vouchers!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
22 days ago

The Uber voucher system in Innisfil is only a pilot project Ken – to run from February and end 8 months later this year. Where did you find the “facts” with regard to the students? Usually you provide a link. With the price of groceries rising and the carbon tax increased and unlikely to go away the $6. Uber voucher will not go very far while it is available to assist families, seniors struggling to pay for their increased costs. Some laud Uber but there have been too many incidents with Uber drivers. The control in licensing is not there.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Dave, see https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-29/when-a-town-takes-uber-instead-of-public-transit

That article includes the following comment:

… city councillor Donna Orsatti wrote that the cap had been implemented because “the system was being abused by those in the youth bracket who were using Uber at $3 to go to Starbucks (as an example), purchase a drink, then go back to school or meet their friends.”

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Dave, for another reference see: https://macleans.ca/facebook-instant-articles/how-one-ontario-town-used-uber-to-solve-its-public-transit-crisis

While the high school is not a $3-flat-fare destination, the standard $5 discount makes it cheap enough to seem insignificant. When school is out, Uber rides line up like yellow buses. It provides all the benefits of a personal chauffeur without the hassle of having to talk to your parents.

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 days ago

Which wipes out your points on students abusing the system.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
17 days ago

Pardon? Anyone who can afford a Starbucks coffee can afford a taxi without taxpayer subsidies.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Dave
22 days ago

Thats why Schools are Banning Cel Phs
all students have them

Rational
Reply to  Sandpiper
22 days ago

Sandpiper – Schools are not banning cell phones/all cell phones; rather restricting usage during classroom instruction time with an option open for the instructor to give permission for class usage in certain circumstances.

beach lover
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
22 days ago

Both Uber and Lyft have driver rating systems so I’ve never found Uber drivers in Toronto to be “angry immigrants” with communication issues. Instead, over the course of many years of using Uber in Toronto, I have found drivers to be courteous and helpful. Uber drivers operate newer, well-maintained vehicles unlike many of the taxis I’ve ordered in Cobourg that have smelled of cigarette smoke, stale food and who knows what. I look forward to trying the new service.

Rob
Reply to  beach lover
22 days ago

Couldn’t agree more…I’m in a Toronto Uber a couple times each week, some drivers are chatty and others are not, cars are impeccably tidy and generally 2022 or newer, with some offering iPad gaming systems for children (located on the backside of the front headrest). The passenger and driver rating system is an excellent way to hold both parties accountable.

There is no reason Northumberland taxi services can not compete assuming they are prepared to elevate the standard of service.

Last edited 22 days ago by Rob