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Proposed vehicle-for-hire regulations reignite taxi industry, Uber war

CityNews | posted Friday, Apr 8th, 2016

New proposed regulations for the taxi industry and Uber were expected to calm the storm that’s swelled over the city but seem to have added fuel to the fire.

More than 100 new recommendations were unveiled Thursday at city hall following 18 months of protests and dramatic council meetings by the taxi industry.

Tracy Cook, executive director of municipal licensing and standards, said she believes the recommendations will create a balance in the ever-evolving ground transportation environment.

“We believe, and I believe, the recommendations we’re making for new regulation governing all ground transportation providers under a new vehicle for hire bylaw is balanced, is fair and will appropriately frame the city’s role in regulation and absolutely ensure that we’re fulfilling our mandate of public safety and consumer protection.”

Taxis will be able to offer a discounted fare if riders book through the phone or app and drivers will see lower licensing fees.

Cook said she felt the recommendations took away some of the regulatory burdens on the current taxi industry.

Related stories:

Uber legal director says taxi industry not ride-sharing app’s main competition

Video: Leveling the playing field between traditional taxis and Uber-X

Poll finds more Torontonians using and supporting Uber

“These recommendations are enabling operational flexibility beyond what the taxi cab industry has had in the past,” she explained. “We’re striking a balance here that recognizes the taxi cab industry now will have competition in the market that it has never had before. And that definitely changes the focus and has us look at how we regulate.”

Meanwhile, UberX drivers must undergo a criminal background check and get a $2-million insurance coverage plans, similar to that of their taxi counterparts.

Cook added that these are just regulations and it’s up to the city to make the laws.

“Let’s remember this report is to set the basis for discussion and a debate for our councillors, some of whom are here, to make those decisions.”

And it appears it’s going to be a very heated debate.

Several city councillors were quick to voice their disapproval of the recommended regulations, including Coun. Janet Davis who said they were caving to Uber.

“They need to start over. What staff has proposed is a huge step backwards,” Davis explained.

On social media, Coun. Mike Layton called it a step back from existing regulations and added that not imposing a driver cap would mean an unlimited number of drivers would be trolling for fares on busy streets at busy times, increasing downtown congestion.

“I’m no taxi lobbyist, but I am a transit lobbyist and don’t want more cars trolling for fares,” Layton tweeted. “We can regulate the efficiency, but that doesn’t mean we should allow unlimited cars for hire. Some streets will be flooded.”

Representatives from the taxi industry said these recommendations would kill their industry.

“Just by looking at it, off the top of my head, I don’t think that there will be a taxi industry. There’s a big issue for the drivers. I don’t think drivers will be able to make a decent living however we still have to review it. We still have to see the details of the report,” Moini continued.

Uber released the following statement on Thursday:

“We commend Tracey Cook and city staff for working diligently to find accommodation for all parties in the ground transportation market by proposing updates to existing regulations. We will be reviewing the report in depth and meeting with city staff to further understand how the proposed regulations may be implemented, and will have more to say in the coming days.”

Mayor John Tory, who is currently in California, released the following statement on the recommendations:

“Today, we have new regulations that create a level playing field, provide safe, convenient options to our residents and allow drivers to earn a competitive living,” Tory said in the statement. “Toronto has an opportunity to put the interests of its residents first and create a regulatory environment that protexts drivers and allows companies to fairly compete.”

City council will vote on the recommendations next month.

Which home renovations give you the best return on investment?

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Apr 7th, 2016

A recent poll from CIBC says that 42% of Canadian homeowners plan to renovate their homes this year, with an average budget of $17,142. There are so many updates that can be done to your home, but which ones will give you the best return on investment?

Here’s a look what you can expect from 25 of the most popular home renovations, according to the Appraisal Institute of Canada.

75-100% ROI: (Return on Investment): bathroom and kitchen renovations

50-100% ROI: Painting interior of the house or painting the exterior of the house

50-75% ROI: Basement renovation, window and door replacement, flooring upgrades, fireplace installation

 25-75% ROI: Roof shingle replacement, central air and decks

25-50%% ROI: Landscaping, asphalt paving, building a fence or interlocking brick walkways, home theatre room

0-25% ROI: Skylights, whirpool tubs, swimming pool

Want an extra slice of pizza? Be prepared to walk 43 minutes

CityNews | posted Thursday, Apr 7th, 2016

 A sample food label taken from the Royal Society for Public Health study.

It can be tough to figure out how much exercise you need to do to burn off all the food you eat, but in England, one researcher wants to make it easier.

For example, if you want an extra slice of pizza, you should be prepared to walk an extra 43 minutes. A can of pop, meanwhile, is a 40-minute stroll.

That’s the advice from Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Healthwho is calling for labelling similar to cigarette warnings on food.

Cramer believes many consumers find nutrition labeling confusing, with lots of information that is hard to make sense off, so she came up with the idea of a catchy infographic that shows both the calories in the item and how much exercise it would take to burn it off.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.48.17 AM

It’s just a proposed idea for now, but the objective is to encourage people to be more mindful of the calories they consume. According to a piece written by Cramer on the BBC, the infographic would also encourage people to be more physically active.

Advocates say it would be an effective way to help fight rates of obesity and diabetes, while critics worry that it could lead to calorie counting. It could also reinforce the belief that exercise is the key to weight loss.

Click here to read the Royal Society for Public Health study.

Equitable but separate rules coming for Uber and taxis

CityNews | posted Thursday, Apr 7th, 2016

New regulations dealing with Toronto ground transportation are set to be revealed today.

According to at least one report, the city plans to present separate rules for the taxi industry and ride-sharing services, such as Uber.

The Toronto Star quotes Mayor John Tory as saying the regulations were never going to be exactly the same, noting “you are dealing with two different businesses.”

Tory tells the newspaper that there will be similar rules for the two services when it comes to insurance, safety inspections and criminal background checks. But the two groups will have different regulations when it comes to fares, licensing and which type of customer they can pick up.

Sam Moini of the Toronto Taxi Alliance says he’s not optimistic but will take a wait and see approach.

“I doubt that it’s going to be favourable to the industry,” Moini tells 680News. “We’re going to respect the process and we’re going to see what the report actually does say and move forward from there.”

Moini would not rule out a potential taxi strike in the future.


Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.34.12 AM

City seeks advice on how to improve downtown Toronto

CityNews | posted Thursday, Apr 7th, 2016

If your idea of DT advice is some hair of the dog, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

The effects of alcohol withdrawal weren’t what the city had in mind when it launched its recent #DTadvice campaign. Instead, the city is seeking the public’s input on how to make living, working, and playing in the downtown core better for everybody.

Toronto city planning has created a video that portrays downtown as a person named DT who’s gone through some growing pains, but has emerged with a pimple-free face reflecting diversity and inclusiveness. But of course, there’s still room to grow and improve.

The video begins with a woman staring at a postcard depicting Toronto’s 1970 skyline.

“It feels just like yesterday, now … all grown up, I couldn’t be more proud,” the woman says.

Several different characters proceed to point out DT’s positive features.

Councillor Norm Kelly even makes an appearance.


“DT didn’t always take my advice, you know how they are when they’re young. You’ve got a reputation for yourself now, so it’s important that you stay humble,” the popular Kelly says, as though he were speaking about himself.

The video ends with Mayor John Tory outlining some of the admirable things people had to say about DT.

“Hey DT it’s JT, I’ve got some good stuff for you. Keep your Pride, places to play, families really like your parks, bike lanes, something from Drake. Anyway, downtown, your future is looking great…”

Using the #DTadvice hashtag, many tweeted how downtown Toronto can be improved. The city has also set up a website where the public can provide input. Have your say here.


Majority of Torontonians support Internet voting, shorter campaigns: poll

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Apr 6th, 2016

When it comes to municipal elections, the majority of Torontonians want voting to go high tech.

A new Mainstreet poll found that 59 per cent of people are in favour of implementing Internet voting for Toronto municipal elections. That’s nearly double the amount of people opposed (33 per cent).

Over half of the people asked (54 per cent) say Internet voting would be secure.

It’s a trend that appears to be on the rise. Compared to a similar poll conducted last year, both support for online voting and confidence in online security rose four per cent.

The majority of Torontonians would also approve of a shorter campaign period.

Seventy-one per cent of those asked said they would approve of a shorter campaign period. Only 21 per cent disapproved of the idea with eight per cent not sure.

This comes after a nearly year-long mayoral campaign in 2014 in which John Tory defeated Doug Ford and Olivia Chow. Registration for that election began in January and lasted until September, with the actual election taking place in October.

During the election, Chow voiced her concerns over the length of the campaign and said that if elected she would take steps to make it shorter.

“Torontonians are now saying Internet voting is more secure and a large majority would support shorter campaign periods,” Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research, said in a statement. “With council potentially re-visiting these topics again we thought we would as well.”

The Mainstreet poll was conducted as Ontario said it would allow ranked ballots in municipal elections. Ranked balloting, also known as preferential voting, is a voting system in which you select your first choice on the ballot, then your second choice and so on.

Fifty-nine per cent said they would approved of a change in the voting system while 29 per cent disapproved. Twelve per cent was not sure.

“Most Torontonians would support ranked balloting even if City Council doesn’t,” Maggi said. “In the past Council has supported the initiative, now it may be getting cold feet.”

“The ward boundary review process has the potential to displace councillors from their pre-existing constituencies. Adding in ranked ballots may make some councillors very nervous about their chances for re-election. Nevertheless, ranked balloting has strong support from Torontonians,” finished Maggi.

When it comes to the actual size of city council, Torontonians appear to be split. Of those asked, 48 per cent said that there were too many councillors while 43 per cent said the number was just right. Only nine per cent said there were not enough.

Currently there are 44 members of council.

Mainstreet surveyed a random sample of 2,062 Toronto Residents on April 3. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.16 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

New rule on double-play slides gives Rays win over Blue Jays

Mark Didtler, The Associated Press | posted Wednesday, Apr 6th, 2016

After a disputed defeat Tuesday night, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is certainly no fan of baseball’s new rule on breaking up double plays.

“Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow,” Gibbons said. “Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”

The recent change took all of three days to undoubtedly swing the outcome of a game this season, giving Logan Forsythe and the Tampa Bay Rays a 3-2 victory over Toronto that left Gibbons fuming.

With the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder to third. After taking a throw from Evan Longoria for the force at second, Forsythe made an errant relay to first that appeared to allow the go-ahead run to score for Toronto.

Rays manager Kevin Cash asked for a replay review, claiming Jose Bautista violated the new “Chase Utley Rule” governing slides on potential double plays.

Replay umpires in New York ruled Bautista’s slide was not directly into the bag and it illegally hindered Forsythe. The call was changed to a game-ending double play that preserved Tampa Bay’s victory.

“It turned the game into a joke,” Gibbons said. “That’s flat embarrassing. That cost us a chance to win a major league game.”

The call was overturned after a delay of one minute, 30 seconds. An announcement in the press box explained that the replay umpire definitively determined the runner violated rule 6.01 (j), that the runner’s actions hindered and impeded the fielder. It was also determined that Bautista did not engage in a bona fide slide, as he did not attempt to remain on the base.

“I feel like I respect the rule, that it was an absolutely clean slide,” Bautista said. “And it’s just disappointing to lose a major league baseball game, with so much at stake every day here. We put a lot into the game since we were little kids and then to all of a sudden have everything taken away like that is just strange.”

Major League Baseball recently changed the rule on such slides, hoping to prevent a repeat of the takeout by Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley that broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during last year’s playoffs.

“It might be the first game that was a ‘W’ because of the double-play rule that’s in effect,” Forsythe said. “It was wild.”

“I felt something on the slide,” the second baseman added. “When I first saw him coming in, I thought he was going over the bag, but then I didn’t know if he kicked his foot out to try and catch a back foot. He kind of swung me around a little bit, the throw went a little left.”

Umpire crew chief Mike Everitt said to a pool reporter that he was told to limit his comments to what replay officials sent him. It was the same information announced in the press box.

“That’s it,” said Everitt, who declined to discuss the original call. “That’s what we got. It went to replay and that’s what it is.”

Forsythe hit an opposite-field, two-run homer in the eighth inning.

His drive off Brett Cecil (0-1) ended the reliever’s run of 38 straight appearances without allowing an earned run, dating to June 24. The left-hander’s stretch was tied with Craig Kimbrel (2011 with Atlanta) for the longest in the majors since earned runs became an official stat in 1912 in the National League and one year later in the American League.

Corey Dickerson homered for the Rays, who avoided their second 0-3 start (2011). Alex Colome (1-0) went the final two innings to get the win.

Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez, making his first start since June 5 and 12th overall, allowed one run, five hits and struck out eight over seven innings. He began 2015 in the rotation but went on the disabled list June 15 with a right lat strain. The right-hander moved into the bullpen after returning in July.

Bautista had been 0 for 13 against Jake Odorizzi before hitting a leadoff triple in the fourth. He scored when Odorizzi was charged with an error for a bad throw to the plate on Encarnacion’s grounder.

Encarnacion took second on the play and later scored to put Toronto up 2-0 on Michael Saunders’ single.

Odorizzi gave up two runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out 10 and walked two.

Dickerson pulled the Rays to 2-1 on his second homer this season in the fourth.

Steve Geltz got a fly ball from Encarnacion with the bases loaded to end the seventh.

CAA’s annual worst roads campaign begins

Erin Criger | posted Wednesday, Apr 6th, 2016

My vote is for Dufferin Street, and its potholes that can loosen fillings.

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is once again asking for Ontario’s input as it prepares its list of the worst roads in the province.

The annual poll is a sure sign of spring, with the results to be released next month.

Last year, Dufferin was the worst road in Toronto, but the top Ontario ‘honours’ went to Algonquin Boulevard West (No. 1) and Algonquin Boulevard East (No. 2) in Timmins.

Polls are expected to open at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Last year’s results can be seen below.

Ontario’s top 10 worst roads for 2015:

  1. Algonquin Boulevard West, Timmins
  2. Algonquin Boulevard East, Timmins
  3. Dufferin Street, Toronto
  4. Highway 144, Greater Sudbury
  5. Carling Avenue, Ottawa
  6. Radical Road, Port Dover
  7. Burlington Street East, Hamilton
  8. Riverside Drive, Timmins
  9. Dominion Road, Fort Erie
  10. Bayview Avenue, Toronto

Toronto’s top 5 worst roads for 2015:

  1. Dufferin Street
  2. Bayview Avenue
  3. Markham Road
  4. Kipling Avenue
  5. Lawrence Avenue East
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