Kingston City Council to consider future of taxi licensing and regulation

This Tuesday, Kingston City Council will vote on whether or not to dissolve the Kingston and Area Taxi Commission. Photo by Lexi Anderson.

On the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, members of Kingston City Council will consider a pair of options regarding the future of taxi regulation in the City. Back in May, Council approved a motion calling on staff to explore options to incorporate matters such as licensing and regulation within the City’s municipal services and under the purview of City Council. 

The move to explore in-house options came after months of tension between local taxi companies and the Kingston and Area Taxi Commission (KATC) after the KATC sought to implement a controversial fare hike earlier this year. Currently, the KATC is the legislated authority for taxi licensing and regulation, as well as Uber licensing and regulation, in the City of Kingston and Loyalist Township. The KATC was created by the Ontario Provincial Government through the City of Kingston and the Townships of Kingston, Pittsburgh and Ernestown Act, 1989, which established one licensing body for taxis in the municipalities. 

At Council’s May meeting, King’s Town District Councillor Rob Hutchison put forward a motion stating that “the KATC governance model has prevented City Council from being directly involved in the decision-making process as it relates to the licensing, regulating and governing of the owners and drivers of taxi cabs.”

Hutchison’s motion cited “concerns” from members of the community, as well as the local taxi industry, regarding the KATC’s oversight. For the last several months, City staff have investigated various aspects of taxi regulation in Kingston, including the process required to dissolve the commission, and the City’s ability to incorporate taxi governance into its existing municipal structures.

Tuesday night, Council will consider two options regarding the future of taxi regulation in Kingston. The first would see the City withdraw from the KATC to the Province of Ontario, as it establishes its own internal taxi regulation service. According to a staff report, a number of steps would have to be taken in order to dissolve the commission and have its powers transferred to the individual municipalities. 

If the City of Kingston were to withdraw from the KATC, it would automatically be dissolved, regardless of any action taken by Loyalist Township, making tomorrow night’s decision a defining moment for the future of the commission. A one-year notice period is required for the KATC to be dissolved, which means changes would not come into effect until fall 2023.

The alternative option, according to the staff report, is to receive that report “for information only and continue to support the
current Kingston and Area Taxi Licensing Commission.”

A major element of Council’s decision pertains to the City’s ability to take on the roles and responsibilities of KATC in-house, including licensing, inspection, and enforcement. According to the staff report, “The City of Kingston has the capacity to take on the regulation of the local taxi industry if Council decides to dissolve the KATC.”

In terms of taxi licensing, the report notes that the City is already equipped to take on such a task. “The process of issuing licenses by the KATC is similar in all respects to that which is followed by municipal staff for all other licensing requirements. Staff operate a municipal application process, receive and review license requests, and ensure that applications meet all municipal requirements,” the report states.

While the issuing of fees would require “full-time” resources, any additional costs would be offset by the licensing fees charged by the City. Similarly, additional enforcement officers would likely be required; however, such positions would also be covered by the taxi licensing fees. In terms of inspections, the report indicates that visual reviews of taxi cabs and records could take place at municipal parking lots and that such services could be incorporated into the existing City budget. 

By incorporating taxi licensing and governance into the City’s existing services, Council would also have the ability to review any and all aspects of KATC regulation, with the option to adopt existing by-laws or create a new regulatory framework.

Ultimately, councillors will have the final say Tuesday night as to what direction they choose to take. To read a full copy of the City Staff report to Council on this matter, visit the City of Kingston website. To watch the meeting live (or the recorded version afterwards), visit the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

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