Alberta city council votes to regulate the app-based service with conditions such as insurance and a taxi-level minimum fare.
Toronto now has a template for accommodating traditional taxis and Uber, after Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize the ride-hailing upstart.
Mayor John Tory, under fire from Toronto’s taxi industry for working on a bylaw that would regulate app-based Uber rather than make renewed efforts to shut it down, lauded Edmonton as a trailblazer.
“I would just commend and point to Edmonton as a way of dealing with this; that is what we’re trying to do in Toronto,” the mayor said Thursday. “We have been on a timetable about two months behind them … so I hope we’re on the same timetable.”
Those were fighting words for Toronto taxi drivers, who accused the mayor of presupposing what city council will do with proposed new regulations being drafted by city licensing staff.
Edmonton council voted 8-4 on Wednesday, at a meeting punctuated by protesting taxi drivers, to legalize California-based Uber starting on March 1, with conditions:
- “Private transportation providers,” including Uber drivers, must have provincially approved commercial insurance and undergo car inspections and criminal record checks.
- PTPs and traditional taxis all charge passengers a minimum $3.25 fare.
- PTPs have no legislated per-kilometre rate, opening the door to Uber’s “surge” peak-time pricing with no maximum, while taxis maintain city-legislated rates.
- Only taxis can be hailed on the street or ordered by phone.
- Uber will pay Edmonton $70,000 a year to operate there.
- Edmonton said it will hire more bylaw officers to ensure Uber plays by the new rules.Ian Black, general manager of Uber Canada, applauded Edmonton for its “progressive regulations that embrace ride-sharing.”“In Toronto, we have also been collaborating with city officials on how we can operate within a regulated environment and we will continue this work as we move towards new regulations for ride-sharing, which are expected in the coming months.”Toronto recently said Uber is being granted a taxi brokerage licence. However the UberX service — with private drivers using their own vehicles, as opposed to app-dispatched taxi drivers — is operating illegally, according to city staff.Uber recently added yet another service, UberPool, allowing passengers travelling in the same direction at the same time to ride together and split their fare.Sajid Mughal, president of Toronto’s iTaxi Workers Association, criticized Edmonton for not capping the number of Uber vehicles on the road and said the rules leave residents of that city open to big bills.“So if there is a shortage of cars, from breakdowns or something like that, they can charge the public as much as they want? It’s a ridiculous idea,” he said.
Mughal downplayed reports that, unless Toronto council passes a new injunction against Uber at next week’s meeting, taxi drivers will disrupt the February weekend when the city is hosting the NBA all-star game.
“Drivers I talked to do not like that idea; I don’t think we will be doing that,” he said, adding that taxi industry representatives will soon meet to plan their next move.
The Toronto Taxi Alliance accused Tory of being disrespectful to councillors by declaring that Toronto is on track to follow Edmonton’s lead.
Uber in other Canadian cities:
- Vancouver: Last fall Vancouver council slammed the door on Uber. However, B.C.’s transportation minister recently said it’s inevitable Uber will be operating in the province.
- Calgary: The city and Uber are trying to find a way to work together legally. In December, Uber agreed to shut down temporarily and the city agreed not to try to make permanent an injunction outlawing the service.
- Montreal: Mayor Denis Coderre has taken a hard line against UberX, and the city continues to seize private drivers’ vehicles. Still, Uber remains incredibly popular in Montreal, according to the company. A taxi coalition says it is launching a class-action suit against Uber and the Quebec government for not enforcing rules on permits.
- Halifax: Uber’s small presence in the city disappeared last year after the city said drivers must have taxi licences or face a $233 fine.