(Editor’s update: Toronto City Council decided on this issue at its July 16 meeting.)
This week, Canada declared a national climate emergency. Next week a City of Toronto committee will consider eliminating important fuel efficiency standards for the vehicle-for-hire industry. We encourage the City to maintain and enhance those standards as a show of leadership in the fight against climate change.
Most sources of carbon emissions in Toronto are trending downwards. Buildings are getting more efficient, the electricity supply has gotten cleaner, and waste management practices have improved. The one area where Toronto has struggled to make significant progress is transportation. While vehicle fuel efficiency has improved (slowly) over time, the increased number of cars on the road has offset this progress.
In recent years, the primary source of increased traffic has been the explosive growth of the vehicle-for-hire industry (that is, taxis, limos, and ride-hailing services). In fact, over the past five years the number of vehicles-for-hire active in Toronto has increased over 500%. This is largely due to the success of ride-hailing firms like Uber and Lyft, whose ridership has grown 180% in the last 2.5 years to over 176,000 daily trips in Toronto. This rate of growth is expected to continue, likely exceeding 300,000 daily trips within a few years.
The problem is, the majority of these trips, according to survey data, would have been made by transit or active transportation if ride-hailing services weren’t available. Furthermore, the average ride-hailing vehicle is 20 per cent less fuel efficient than the average taxicab. That’s partly because taxicabs have been required to meet City-specified fuel efficiency standards for the past five years, while ride-hailing vehicles are exempted. That’s why TAF has long recommended extending vehicle emissions standards from taxicabs to the broader vehicle-for-hire industry including ride-hailing firms.
Extending vehicle emissions standards across the vehicle-for-hire sector is broadly supported by the taxicab industry, as well as the majority of Torontonians. In fact, a public survey commissioned by the City found 87% support for ride-hailing vehicle emissions standards, even eclipsing support for mandatory driver training or enhanced safety features. In other words, it’s a no-brainer.
Yet instead of updating the vehicle emissions standards and extending them to ride-hailing firms, a proposed bylaw update would eliminate vehicle emissions standards altogether. This proposal would undermine Toronto’s ability to meet its climate commitments, effectively eliminating the city’s ability to control one of the fastest growing sources of emissions. There is no need to eliminate these vehicle emissions standards, which taxicabs have been meeting for the past five years. Instead, Toronto should build on its climate leadership by updating the standards and extending them across the vehicle-for-hire industry.
The vehicle-for-hire industry is a critical part of the Toronto’s transportation system, and has the potential to play an important role in the transition to a low-carbon future. However, absent appropriate regulation, the growth of the industry will continue to increase carbon emissions and air pollution.