Jim Karygiannis says city employees shouldn’t be using Uber while the city is involved in a court battle to ban the service.
City councillor Jim Karygiannis (open Jim Karygiannis’s policard) said he will likely introduce a motion at next month’s council meeting to have the popular car-hailing app Uber removed from city-owned Smartphones.
“I wouldn’t feel safe if my daughter or my wife were to get in (an) Uber cab with some of the stuff that has happened with the Uber drivers,” Karygiannis said. “There’s no insurance. There’s no public safety as far as police (background checks) are concerned.”
The motion asks the city’s Chief Administrative Officer to remove the app from 12,000 city-issued phones, though Karygiannis does not know how many of those phones have actually downloaded the app.
His action comes days after 13 UberX drivers were charged with operating a taxi without the proper licence or insurance in an undercover sting operation, leaving drivers who use the Smartphone app feeling besieged.
“It’s bad enough what police are doing,” said one UberX driver who asked not to be identified for fear of legal repercussions. “There’s a huge demand for (Uber); why be a hypocrite about it?”
“Police should put something out and say you can’t do it, if that’s the case. Uber says there’s no regulation. People are confused and no one understands the law,” he told two Star reporters on a recent ride. “I’m all for regulation — tell me what I need to do.”
A draft of Karygiannis’ motion provided to the Star also requests that the city’s mobile service providers “remove or block the application in an automated manner.”
Karygiannis would not speculate on the likelihood of his motion passing in council, but said it makes no sense for city staff to be using Uber while the city battles the controversial company in court.
It was the robbery of an UberX driver in February that prompted a platoon of young Toronto police officers to begin planning the recent sting operation, said 12 Division superintendent Scott Weidmark.
Police set up at two Tim Hortons in the city’s west end and ordered an UberX car to take them from one to the other. Upon arrival, the UberX drivers were greeted with flashing lights and the passenger would identify himself as a police officer, Weidmark said.
Each of the drivers was charged with operating a taxi without the proper licence or insurance.
“That’s maybe one of the gaps within this service right now. Not only do their drivers not have the same protection as a regular cab would, there’s little regulation on who these drivers are,” he said, citing foreign cases of UberX drivers with criminal records. “We have concerns for both ends: the drivers and the public.”
But the UberX driver who spoke to the Star says many of his clients have stopped using regular taxis altogether and consider Uber to provide a better, more convenient experience with more accountability.
“The city and Uber need to sit down and talk to each other,” he said. “There’s more than enough business to go around — especially with the PanAm Games coming.”
Weidmark said in addition to the 11 UberX drivers who were in court this week, two more have been charged, but that the crackdown is over for now.
“It really all depends on where Uber is going to go in the province of Ontario, in the city. If they can find some way of regulating it, I think there’s a benefit to it. But the unregulated drivers and the lack of protection for the drivers and the passengers is a real problem right now,” he said.