Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone has an opinion about Toronto’s taxis.
On a professional level, I see them as an important part of a sustainable transportation system that includes walking, cycling, public transit, carpooling and carsharing. On a personal level, I see them from the vantage point of a cyclist jockeying for position on the road and as an advocate who is frustrated on a daily basis by cabs parked in bike lanes.
So, what’s a guy to do?
I believe that if you have something constructive to say, than you should say it. Fortunately, the City of Toronto is listening. For the past year, the City has been undertaking a Taxi Industry Review. This includes public stakeholder consultations, creation of a Taxicab Bill of Rights and establishment of a Taxicab Advisory Committee to help facilitate communications between the industry, the general public and the City. These consultations will help to inform recommendations for Council to consider.
Nary has a week gone by when I’m not asked why Toronto doesn’t have more hybrid taxis on the road. A few years back, I got to do a deep dive into the industry via a grant to Co-op Cabs to determine the business and environmental case for hybrid taxis in Toronto. By analysing over 750,000km worth of fuel consumption data over an 18-month period, we concluded that an industry-wide switch to hybrids could lead to GHG reductions of 19,000+ tonnes per year and that, from a financial perspective, hybrids offered fuel and maintenance savings. This was further bolstered by rising fuel prices where every $0.10/L increase led to additional savings of $1000-$2000.
So, why don’t we just mandate all taxis to be hybrids? If only it were that easy (see New York’s similar challenges as they try to implement their “Taxi of Tomorrow” program). To be sure, the taxi industry in Toronto is a complex, politically challenging system that must respond to varying interests. From the different ownership models to the myriad regulations governing everything from fare structures, vehicle size and accessibility issues, it’s not an easy task to effect change.
But change can happen, especially with something as visually prominent and ubiquitous as taxis. We’ve witnessed a 10-fold increase in the number of hybrid cabs on the streets in the past few years (there are currently close to 300 hybrid taxis registered in Toronto) and hybrid owners are sharing their positive experiences with colleagues, including fewer fueling stops and happy customers.
If the market demands greener taxis, than the industry should respond. But the industry (and the City) needs to hear your voice. So, love ‘em or hate ‘em, let the City of Toronto know you want fuel-efficient, low-carbon and safe taxis for all.