Calgary bylaw puts brakes on Uber service
Uber, the popular and controversial ride sharing service, won’t be coming back to Calgary, at least for the time being.
Calgary city council passed new guidelines on the ride sharing service on Monday, and the company says that under the new rules, it’s not possible to do business.
Uber originally came to the city last October, opening for business without any sort of regulation imposed by the city. As a result, the city sought and won an injunction against the company the following month, forcing them to suspend services until a bylaw was agreed upon.
Now, that bylaw has been passed in council, and Uber isn’t happy with the results, going so far as to say that it won’t return to Calgary.
“The bylaw, as it currently sits, actually breaks in the entire model it is. It would make sure ride sharing would not be a reliable product,” said Ramit Kar, general manager of Uber Alberta. “It would not be able to bring on enough drivers to support the demand of the product and, quite frankly, the prices would just go up.”
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi says that the ball is in Uber’s court now. “This is their script. It’s page 347 of the script their general manager has to read and we’ll see how it goes from here.”
The bylaw has imposed the following rules on drivers who take part in ride sharing services:
- An annual operating licence from The City of Calgary
- A Valid Class 4 driver’s licence
- An annual police background check
- Proof of valid commercial insurance as required by the Government of Alberta
- Proof of eligibility to work in Canada
- Proof of provincially-approved 134-point mechanical inspection, conducted annually or every 50,000 km whatever comes first
The bylaw comes into effect on April 4, 2016.
Nenshi said after the meeting that the requirements imposed on drivers employed by ride sharing services is not onerous and leaves the door open for other companies, similar to Uber, to step in.
“I’m very tempted to make a phone call to Lyft and say ‘looking at international expansion? Here’s some regulations that work really well for you.’”
Meanwhile, taxi companies, which have been long opposed to Uber, are okay with the new rules.
“It’s a fair, level playing field,” said Roger Richard, president of Calgary’s Associated Cabs. “The only one that doesn’t seem to like it is Uber. They don’t believe in regulation, they don’t believe in proper insurance, paying their taxes.”
Only one councilor, Evan Woolley, voted against the new bylaw, and he is disappointed.
“These were drivers not unlike you or I. I always kind of call it carpooling that you pay for and I think that the inspections would’ve been too cumbersome.”
Residents on Tuesday morning say that Uber is a good idea, but the pair of organizations just need to work together to iron out the details.
"They should give them more consideration probably," says one man on Stephen Avenue. "There seems to be a market for it in other places across the country. If they can regulate it a bit and make it fair, I think it's good."
The new bylaw has also opened another option for current taxi companies in Calgary.
Taxi and limousine services will now be able to negotiate and charge fares through smartphone apps in the same fashion that Uber does in other cities.
The city says that at least one other ride share service will be prepared to launch in Calgary for the bylaw in April, but there is no confirmation on which company that would be.