Rapid growth in the sharing economy inspired Toronto to adopt a holistic, user-centered approach to regulatory reform.
Steady expansion of Toronto’s sharing economy revealed limitations in the regulation of accommodations, transportation, and other sectors. In addition, existing operators resented that newcomers such as Uber and Airbnb were able to operate largely unconstrained by the city’s regulatory regime.
The City of Toronto teamed up with the MaRS Solutions Lab on a Sharing Economy Public Design project to rethink the regulatory landscape. Guided by human-centered design principles, the project gathered input from experts and stakeholders to uncover pain points and potential solutions. The project called for greater intra-government cooperation, reconsideration and revision of existing regulations, and a user-centered approach to designing new regulations. These ideas influenced Toronto’s 2016 Vehicle-for-Hire bylaw, which regulates taxis, limousines, and TNCs.
Uber opens its first Canadian office in Toronto, launches UberX in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal.
City of Toronto files an injunction to halt Uber operations.
The Mowat Centre, an independent think tank at the University of Toronto, release a report advocating user-centered approaches to policymaking for the sharing economy.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce and PwC Canada convene forum on sharing economy.
Ontario judge rejects Toronto’s injunction against Uber.
MaRS Solutions Lab and the City of Toronto’s Municipal Licensing & Standards (ML&S) department launch Sharing Economy Public Design Project and host a forum on the role of government in the sharing economy. Project team members conducted extensive interviews with Airbnb hosts, hotel managers, taxi drivers, uberX drivers, and others. These conversations provided concrete insights into how the regulatory regime affected people’s lives.
Province of Ontario launches a pilot project with Airbnb to inform hosts about tax requirements, consumer protection rights, accessibility, and other regulatory requirements.
MaRS Solutions Lab and the City of Toronto release Shifting Perspectives report, which sets out a new proactive, user-centered approach to designing regulations for the sharing economy. Its conclusions are based on three workshops with regulators, industry representatives, sharing economy firms, insurance providers, and other experts.
Toronto City Council approves new Vehicle-for-Hire bylaw that creates a private transportation company (PTC) license designation and includes provisions on data collection, accessibility, and insurance. “Shifting Perspectives” informed the creation of this bylaw.
New Vehicle-for-Hire regulations go into effect.
City of Toronto continues work on data-sharing agreement with Uber.
City of Toronto begins to design new short-term rental regulations, slated for release in 2017.
The Mowat Centre releases a report on Regulating Disruption, highlighting the need for a different approach to regulation in the 21st century.
When it comes to the regulatory regime, governments should be proactive
The Shifting Perspectives report argues that cities need “to take a broader perspective and be proactive,” in shaping the sharing economy to the city’s advantage. By establishing a clear vision for the city’s sharing economy, mapping assets, and identifying opportunities, Toronto is now well positioned to design and implement regulatory reform in a more strategic manner.
Human-centered design principles can make regulatory development more collaborative, inclusive, and holistic
Human-centered design offers an approach to problem solving that is grounded in the lived realities and perspectives of those most affected. It creates space for stakeholders to engage in tough conversations and share their insights and ideas during the regulatory development process to create regulations that are “easy to understand, follow, and enforce” (Shifting Perspectives, 23).
- Sunil Johal and Noah Zon, Mowat Centre
Policymaking for the Sharing Economy: Beyond Whack-A-Mole
- Joeri van den Steenhoven, Idil Burale, Vanessa Toye, and Claire Buré, MaRS Solutions Lab
Shifting Perspectives: Redesigning Regulation for the Sharing Economy
- Toronto Municipal Licensing and Standards
Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 546: Licensing of Vehicles-for-Hire
- Sunil Johal and Michael Crawford Urban, Mowat Centre
Regulating Disruption: Governing in an era of rapid technological change