Sexual assault a decisive issue in Uber-KATC dispute

OISE Open House

Kingston taxi broker points to website that records incidences of sexual violence in rideshare cars

Amey's Taxi outside the JDUC.
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The Kingston Area Taxi Commission (KATC) recently proposed draft bylaws that aim to heavily regulate Uber. The bylaws have heightened conflict between the two organizations, particularly dividing them on the issue of sexual assaults committed by Uber drivers against passengers.

The Uber-taxi conflict gained media attention last week as Transport for London (TfL) announced that Uber’s license won’t be renewed for London, England — one of their largest markets. Uber’s license was discontinued after allegations that it mishandled the reporting of crimes to authorities, amongst other accusations. Uber has said they will appeal the decision.

Last week in Kingston, the KATC held its monthly meeting at City Hall focusing on the contested draft bylaws. Cases of sexual assault and safety prompted significant discussion in particular. 

Mark Greenwood, owner of Amey’s Taxi, told the commission that Uber has had scandals involving drivers assaulting passengers. He said that “one sexual assault is too many.”

In response, the KATC  Commissioner and AMS Director of Marketing and Communications Craig Draeger cited incidents out of Halifax, Nova Scotia in which a taxi driver was charged with sexual assault. He explained that in terms of outcomes, these arguments “cut both ways.”

“A taxi driver that had been convicted for assaulting several passengers had committed dozens of sexual assaults in Halifax, in the last couple of years,” Draeger remarked, adding he hopes the commission can make taxis and Ubers safe for all riders.

In an interview with The Journal after Wednesday’s meeting, local taxi broker Kevin Murphy, who operates seven cabs under Amey’s, referenced a website called “Who’s Driving You?”. The site features hundreds of recorded sexual assaults, kidnappings and even deaths allegedly committed by Uber and Lyft Drivers. 

Uber’s ability to perform background checks on potential drivers has been widely scrutinized.  Murphy expressed that websites like “Who’s Driving You?” help to highlight problems surrounding unchecked Uber drivers. 

The website is run by the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association (TLPA), a not-for-profit organization that aims to provide taxi companies around the world with the resources to “enhance” taxi drivers “effectively and profitably” in serving local markets.

Business Insider reported last year that Uber claims to have received “less than 170” reported cases of assault or sexual assault. Uber’s claim contradicts the website “Who’s Driving You” which details over 300 sexual assaults alone.

At last week’s City Hall meeting, Chris Schafer, Uber Canada’s Public Policy Manager, attempted to push back on claims that the company’s safety protocols were inadequate. However, Schafer declined to provide an official comment to The Journal on the matter.

The proposed commission bylaws seek to require all potential Uber drivers to have their fingerprints taken at the Kingston Police headquarters. As well, potential drivers would have to swear an affidavit at City Hall and have their background checked through the local police.

Kingston Uber already requires background checks for their drivers that are streamlined in Ontario through the Cobourg police. Uber also maintains a zero tolerance policy when it comes to background checks — if a potential driver is found to have a criminal record, they won’t be allowed to drive with the company.

The commission is set to continue hearing from stakeholders and the public on issues surrounding Uber’s operation in Kingston. 

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