More than 570 people packed Toronto's city hall council chambers on Thursday to voice their concerns about a proposed overhaul of the city's taxi industry.

Last week, city staff released a report that included 40 recommendations addressing a range of issues from ensuring driver safety to increasing accessibility for passengers.

According to the report, less than four per cent of all cabs in the city are now wheelchair accessible. It recommends increasing the ratio to six per cent by 2015.


The report also recommends transferring taxi ownership to drivers, a proposal which some people in the industry say will not benefit customers.

"We hate to see us go from an owner-operator (operation) to a wholly operator one man, one cab operation because it does away with 24 hour service. That's been the experience of other cab operators in other North American cities," Jim Bell, the CEO of Diamond Taxicab, told CTV Toronto.

In order to drive a cab in the city, drivers must have a taxi licence.

Currently, many taxi licence owners are not drivers, and instead rent their licence through middlemen and brokers, a system which takes money away from the drivers, according to Sajid Mughal, president of iTaxiworkers Association.

"If drivers own their cabs, they will have more money to take home to their family and spend in their community, and service will get better," Mughal said in a statement.

Jahangir Sartaj, a Toronto cabbie and father of four, agrees with Mughal. He says he struggles to make ends meet.

"Shift driving is extremely hard. It’s hard to make (a) living," Sartaj, who was at the committee review, told CTV Toronto. "It eliminates the middle man, which has been problematic."

The report also proposed allowing drivers to charge a fee to passengers who vomit or soil their taxicab.

Public presentations at Thursday’s Licensing and Standards committee review started at 11 a.m. It's expected the debate will carry on well into the night, and possibly into the next few days.

City council will debate the report on Feb. 19.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness