Uber is in the news again this week after it announced that, starting December 15, 2015, a new service called “uberHOP” will be available “along Toronto’s most popular routes during peak hours.” Using uberHOP a user can request to be picked up along one of the four designated, downtown Toronto routes from one of the predetermined “pickup spots”. The service is to be provided for a flat “fare” of $5.00.
The Toronto Transit Commission (the “TTC”) has reportedly asked its lawyers to consider uberHOP in the context of the TTC’s right to operate, maintain and control local passenger transportation services in Toronto. Specifically, the City of Toronto Act, 2006 provides:
Exclusive authority of TTC
395. (1) No person other than the TTC shall establish, operate or maintain a local passenger transportation system within the City until the TTC is dissolved or the control and management over the local passenger transportation system is removed from the TTC. 2006, c. 11, Sched. A, s. 395 (1).
There are certain exceptions to the TTC’s right, being:
(3) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of,
(c) railway companies incorporated under federal or provincial statutes;
(e) vehicles used for providing sightseeing tours;
(f) vehicles exclusively chartered to transport a group of persons for a specified trip within the City, for a group fee;
(g) buses owned and operated by or operated under a contract with a school board or private school;
(h) buses owned and operated by a corporation or organization solely for its own purposes, without charging a fee for transportation;
(i) ferries to the Toronto Islands;
(j) public buses on the Toronto Islands.
There is no indication any legal proceedings have been commenced regarding uberHOP. If the matter is referred to the Courts, the interpretation of the City of Toronto Act, 2006 may be a central issue.
The City of Toronto previously attempted to prevent the operation of “Uber”, the company’s related service which “enables a connection” between prospective riders and drivers. In City of Toronto v Uber Canada Inc. et al., the City of Toronto brought an application for an injunction preventing Uber from operating a taxicab brokerage. The Court found that there was no evidence that Uber was operating a taxicab broker business and dismissed the City’s application.