By Biz Sexton, for CNN
Uber warns of higher prices and longer wait times in Toronto after the city council voted Wednesday to stop issuing new licenses for for-hire vehicles.
City councillors voted 20-5 to scrap more than a year of work to establish the nation’s second set of regulations for the company. Toronto joins Seattle and Washington, D.C., in putting a pause on granting licences.
The council’s action comes a month after Uber and its competitors were banned from operating in France and as the company’s unions continue to push for stronger labor rules.
So far, Uber has lost a few skirmishes with city councils, but the new action is seen as a full-blown attempt to curb the service’s growth in Canada’s biggest city. Toronto mayor John Tory is calling on the provincial government to pass a legislation to back up the city’s move.
Mayor Tory said in a statement that he is “baffled that local politicians are planning to reverse decades of progress for public safety and regional prosperity.”
Uber and its competitors posted public statements before and after the vote on social media.
The company said that any loss of new drivers would “impede the availability of low-cost rides for tens of thousands of Torontonians who rely on Uber to get around town, and the resulting uptick in demand for low-cost, off-peak ride share will effectively drive up car rental prices and service times.”
Uber says it has more than 14,000 active Uber drivers in Toronto, and a total of 100,000 drivers around the globe.
The initiative “may be a temporary government policy, but our work is just beginning,” Uber Canada general manager Steve Harr said. “Today’s decision has no bearing on how the city will regulate the ride-hailing industry moving forward.”
Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft offer for-hire rides, a business that is currently unregulated in most Canadian cities. The apps allow people to book fares with a smartphone app and connect with drivers.
Earlier this month, Berlin’s city council passed a regulation to regulate the industry.
Deirdre Baxter, policy director at Walk Score, told CNN Travel that the limited reach of for-hire vehicles has “kept Vancouver at the top of many cities’ lists for world-class neighbourhoods and walkability.”
In other regions, new regulations have failed to fully protect the safety of riders and drivers. The city of Paris raised concerns about protecting passengers’ privacy after issuing a directive requiring smartphone apps to specify where Uber drivers were located and to automatically reject passengers who failed to pay.
In December, a cab driver in Vancouver was fired by the company after a video emerged showing him hurling a racial slur at a passenger. Vancouver’s government quickly issued a statement saying that if the city wanted to allow unregulated cab companies, there would be consequences.