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Why it could soon be more difficult to hail a taxi—and more expensive once you do

Taxi Reforms Toronto

(Image: Saimz Eyez)

Exactly nobody is happy with Toronto’s screwed-up taxi system. Riders find the $4.25 starting fare exorbitant, while the current two-tier licencing system—some licence holders can sell or rent out their plates, others cannot—makes it nearly impossible for the average driver to earn a living wage. The city, therefore, is looking to streamline its taxi regulations by introducing a single plate that would require owners to drive their own vehicle, along with requirements that all taxis have credit-debit machines and be wheelchair-accessible. Sound good? Well, the Toronto Taxi Alliance hates the idea. 

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People

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The List: 10 things Indy hotshot James Hinchcliffe can’t live without

The List: James Hinchcliffe

1. My lighters
I’ve been collecting lighters since I was a kid. I have about 80 of them now (just to look at—I don’t smoke). My favourite is from WWII. I love thinking about where it’s been, whose it was and what happened to him.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: Can I stop rude drivers from budging at a lane-closure queue?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Traffic

(Image: Daniel R. Blume)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
The left lane is closed about halfway along the off-ramp from the Bayview extension to River Street. Yet every morning, despite the lane closure signs, one in 10 drivers speeds past the queue and squeezes in at the bottleneck, making everyone else’s commute even more excruciating. One morning, I’d had enough, so I positioned my car over the dotted line, blocking the left lane. Some guy in a black BMW drove up behind me and laid on the horn. I held my ground. I think everyone else appreciated it—in fact, another driver mimicked my move. I was right, right?
—Vigilante in a Tercel, Davisville

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Features

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Philip Preville: How the crumbling Gardiner became a symbol for all that ails Toronto

While city hall spent a decade debating what to do with the Gardiner—Demolish it? Bury it? Raise it?—the expressway fell into ruin. The perils of chronic indecision

Philip Preville: Highway of Broken DreamsTorontonians spent most of the last decade studying, researching and letting their imaginations run wild with plans and proposals to boldly transform the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway corridor. There was never any money to devote to the project, but never mind. Everyone weighed in. Let’s bury it! No, let’s turn it into a grand avenue! Design guru and public optimist Bruce Mau, in a fit of contrarian exuberance, proposed raising it even higher. Others suggested a cable-stayed double-decker version. Well, here endeth the lesson: while we were rapt in our salon-style discussion of the Gardiner’s bold future, it fell into ruin. So did our civic dreams. From now on, decisions will be made on the basis of affordability, expediency and convenience, not great design or
urban transformation.

A report from the engineering firm IBI Group, commissioned by the city and made public in late October, called the Gardiner “a significant hazard to public safety.” It found that the regularly scheduled visual inspections conducted by city staff—in essence, little more than standing beneath the Gardiner and looking up—had greatly underestimated the extent of its deterioration. In areas where the spot checks turned up nothing, the report found hundreds of metres of cracks as well as signs of delamination—the process by which the steel rebar embedded in the concrete begins to rust, causing it to expand and break the roadbed apart from the inside.

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: Do television crews have the right to stop traffic on my street?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Roadblocked

(Image: torontocitylife)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
An episode of Nikita is being filmed outside my condo. Every morning for the last few days, the crew has stopped traffic until the take wraps—which feels like an eternity when I’m trying to get to work. It’s absurd that my day is interrupted for a TV show. Can I just drive past the woman with the headset next time? What authority does she have to stop me?
—Roadblocked, Corktown

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Politics

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QUOTED: Toronto Police beg Rob Ford to hire a chauffeur

(Image: Twitter)

On behalf of all the citizens of Toronto that value road safety, Mr Mayor… please get a driver.

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The Informer

Politics

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Celebrate Yonge Street for the next month with lane closures and lots of walking space 

Beginning Friday, car traffic on Yonge Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction between Gerrard Street and Queen Street as part of the Celebrate Yonge festival (and as part of councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s bid to permanently liven up the street). Wong-Tam told the Toronto Star that the project is a good experiment for an area where there are currently about 200 people for every one car, saying it’s time “to be honest about who is actually using Yonge Street.” The change will no doubt put some drivers in a tizzy, but just look at all the fun that was had when the entire street was shut down for a few summers back in the ’70s. Sure, commutes may be temporarily altered, but if we get to see even one politician sashaying down the street, arm-in-arm with fashion models, it’ll be worth it. [h/t Toronto Star]

The Informer

Politics

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A lot of parking tickets are bogus

(Image: Still The Oldie from the Torontolife.com Flickr pool)

At some point, most drivers have wondered whether they really have to pay parking tickets on private property—it turns out, probably not. The Toronto Star looked into the case of Jonathan Sutcliffe, who was hit with a $250 “parking invoice” from something called the Parking Control Unit after leaving his car in a Tim Hortons lot in Scarborough. The invoice looked like the yellow tickets issued by the City of Toronto, save a few details: the fee dropped to $25 if paid within 10 days or to $50 if made within 28 days, and there was no information about how to contest it. Sutcliffe did some research and took to Reddit with his findings. His police division told him to rip up the ticket, saying, “It’s a scam, take it easy and have a great day.” Apparently, according to Toronto’s bylaw, only municipal enforcement officers are allowed to issue parking tickets on private property. (The only exception is Impark and other lots that are clearly commercial.) If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s Google first, pay later. [Toronto Star]

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Politics

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Uber, the luxury car-hailing app, may be breaking city bylaws

When Uber, a smartphone app that allows users to hail black sedans and SUVs, arrived in Toronto, many locals, used to dysfunctional taxi regulations, wondered how it could be legal. It turns out it may not be. Toronto’s director of licensing Bruce Robertson told OpenFile that city staff are “leaning towards” ruling that the company is operating illegally because it has yet to apply for a limousine service licence. Uber, however, doesn’t see itself as a limo service; Andrew MacDonald, the company’s head man in Toronto, told us it partners with licensed companies and drivers and does not itself own cars or employ drivers. “We are a technology company that helps limousine companies connect with their customers through our app,” he said, comparing the distinction to that between Expedia.ca and Air Canada. Unfortunately for MacDonald, Toronto’s bylaw defines a limousine company as “any person or entity which accepts calls in any manner for booking, arranging or providing limousine transportation.” Tough to wiggle out of that. [OpenFile]

(Images: Commerce Court, Daniel Sahlberg; town car, Alden Jewell)

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Politics

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Tension between taxi drivers and other road users grows after longboarder Ralph Bissonette’s death

(Image: Tom Purves)

The battle for space and safety on city streets is making headlines again in light of the death of Ralph Bissonette, the longboarder who was struck and killed by a taxi on May 14. The cab driver involved, Adib Ibraham, has been charged with second-degree murder, and police say road rage may have been a contributing factor—emphasizing once again the acrimonious relations between the motorists, cyclists and skateboarders who share the roads (and who all accuse one another of rampant rule-breaking). Yesterday, the Toronto Sun talked to cab drivers, who attempted to repair the damage to their poor public image. They said that pedestrians, cyclists and boarders ignore traffic laws—making it more difficult than ever to navigate the streets safely. Cabbies also said that skateboarders should stay off the roads (while longboarders are technically supposed to remain on sidewalks, police rarely enforce that rule, and the difficulty of navigating around pedestrians often means longboarders opt to ride on the street instead). Several taxi drivers voiced concern that most Torontonians—including police—are biased against them, rarely siding with drivers during accidents or other incidents. Thomas Tuah, who’s been behind the wheel of a Toronto taxi for 37 years, told the paper, “We go through hell. The police don’t back us, no one does.” Along with their stated complaints, the xenophobic remarks from commentators on the article underscore just how much cabbies are contending with. Read the entire story [Toronto Sun] »

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Politics

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Toronto drivers take note: Google Maps monitors current traffic conditions

(Image: screenshot from Google Maps)

Google Maps finally rolled out its upgraded traffic features to Toronto earlier this spring, which means those cruising across the city in cars can see estimates of how long their journeys will take based on current traffic conditions. How does it work? Turns out all those drivers using Google Maps on their phones (with the GPS enabled) are automatically sending anonymous data back to Google showing how fast they’re moving. Compiling that data from thousands of users, the company gets an idea of live traffic conditions. When you search for directions, Google Maps will tell you how long it will likely take to get to your destination—and whether it would be faster to take the subway instead.

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Politics

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Reaction Roundup: what the revival of Transit City could mean for Toronto (and Rob Ford)

The whole “war on cars” talking point feels so 2009 (and 2010… and 2011), but now that Metrolinx and city council have pushed through an LRT-based transit plan against Rob Ford’s wishes, it’s back in a big way. Some members of council (well, mostly Doug Ford) are already gnashing their teeth over what the plan means for drivers—especially since tolls could be on the table if Josh Matlow gets his way. Others are looking ahead to the 2014 election and how shifts in power could change the whole project once more.

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The Informer

Politics

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City hall wants $150 parking tickets; Reddit’s Toronto community wants fines geared to income 

Pending approval from council, city will start slapping drivers who park illegally during rush hour with $150 fines. The proposal to hike fines from a measly $40 to $60 passed the city’s public works committee by a 3-2 vote and is now set to go before council. But while nobody likes gridlock, and cyclists, of course, will appreciate anything that discourages people from parking in their designated lane, we’re skeptical of the fine’s efficacy. The Toronto Star spoke to one truck driver who said his company thinks of tickets for blocking traffic as “the cost of doing business” (though he did speculate that heftier fines might change that). Meanwhile, a thread on Reddit explores whether fines geared to an individual’s income might be more effective. After all, $150 is basically pocket change to a fat cat in a Porsche. Plus, it’s kind of delicious, in a twisted sort of way, to think about somebody getting hit with a million-dollar fine. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Politics

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A new theatre opens in the war on the car 

Surprisingly, the latest front in the war on the car looks like the site of the Eglinton LRT. The Globe and Mail reports that construction could require closing the south end of the Allen and reducing a portion of Eglinton to just two lanes—cue traffic snarl and hemorrhage-inducing headaches for local drivers. While Mayor Rob Ford’s insistence that the line go underground is creating something of a clusterfuck isn’t making the project any simpler, the complications seem to be inherent to the process (really, a crosstown transit project is bound disrupt traffic). Of course, surplus money from Eglinton is supposed to be funnelled into Ford’s beloved Sheppard subway, so news of these complications is doubly bad for the mayor. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »



The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford receives a little political ammo, courtesy of York Region bus drivers 

Here’s a political gift for the mayor and council’s right wingers: York Region bus drivers are set to strike on Monday if their union doesn’t strike a deal with First Student and Miller Transit. The news comes as Gloria Lindsay Luby, a conservative councillor, is set to present a motion next week that would make EMS an essential service—a move that would cost EMS workers their right to legally strike. Rob Ford should probably consider this a golden opportunity to play to his base. He can rebuild bridges with his old friend Lindsay Luby, beat the anti-union drum and stir up fear that if EMS is not an essential service, we could soon be in an even stickier situation than those poor folks out in York Region. Really, it’s a slam dunk for Ford—as long as there isn’t a football game that day. Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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