The City of Toronto Has Spent $60k on Ads Saying UberX is Illegal

If there was ever an award for the biggest mixed message of the year, the honour would surely be bestowed on the City of Toronto.

Mayor John Tory publicly defended the transportation company earlier in the year, but lately he’s hinted at a growing lack of patience, as they delay getting a brokerage license.

Earlier in the month, the company announced the launch of their shuttle service, bringing commuters from areas in the city to the financial district during rush hour. But then the TTC announced that it would be checking to see if this met strict legal guidelines.

And now a report from staff says that the city of Toronto has so far spent $60,000 to date on an advertising campaign to tell its residents that UberX is illegal.

And as messages go, that one’s not so mixed. In fact, it’s pretty concrete.

The campaign is multi-platform, so you may have seen it in newspapers, on screens in the PATH, and in tweets from a city-operated Twitter account.

The ads say the city regulates taxis and limos for safety and consumer protection and asks residents to make informed decisions before they ride.

Currently, the municipal code has been amended to include Uber in its framework for taxis and limousines, ensuring that licensed brokers only may connect passengers with their transport.

However, because UberX drivers use private vehicles to ferry passengers this does not count as legal.

City of Toronto’s website states that, “Until council changes the regulations permitting vehicles other than licensed taxicabs and limousines, UberX is not in compliance with city bylaws. UberX is not permitted to operate in Toronto.”

And although advertisements decrying the unlawfulness of UberX is certainly a firmer course of action, if it’s not backed up by fines or other deterrents, will it really help or is it just a waste of money?

By allowing the company to operate but asking us, the public, to do the right thing, the City of Toronto is simply passing the buck instead of intervening themselves.

We hope that 2016 brings more clarity into the legitimacy of the cab company, which has made headlines all year long. But it’s only the 22nd of December, so it’s still possible we haven’t even heard the last on Uber in 2015…