BY IAN MCBRIDE
Everyone relies on some form of transportation, whether it be train, plane, car or bus. Taxi services are also another option.
Now enter Uber into the equation. Uber, founded in 2009, is a ride-sharing service based in San Francisco that is available to people in 45 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide. The company uses a smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers who have undergone a background and insurance coverage check. All it takes is the push of a button for residents to request a ride, track their reserved vehicle’s location and pay for the service. Customers are notified once their driver arrives at their location.
In Canada, the rides-for-hire service is currently available in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax, but is expected to expand to other cities. In Toronto, its cheapest service, UberX, is approximately 40 per cent cheaper than a taxi.
It appears that this area could be Uber’s next target market. According to an Oct. 30 article in the Waterloo Region Record, the company advertised in Guelph last week for drivers.
However, any ride-sharing company that accepts payments for rides is considered a taxi service, which requires a municipal licence. However, the UberX service is not municipally licensed in the cities that it’s offered in.
Politicians and taxi regulators in Canada have criticized Uber’s services. They claim the company is trying to flout regulations designed to protect passengers and drivers. According to a Nov. 2 article in the Edmonton Journal, last month in Ottawa bylaw officers conducted a sting and two UberX drivers were fined $650 each for operating a taxi without a licence. The City of Toronto issued a statement claiming that UberX violates municipal taxicab bylaws such as failing to abide by a set fee schedule, and Montreal’s mayor has publicly stated that he believes the service is illegal.
The same criticisms are being made in Waterloo Region. Angelo Apfelbaum, manager of licensing and enforcement at the Region of Waterloo, said in an Oct. 30 article in the Record, that if Uber launched in this area, it would violate many different parts of the region’s limousine taxicab bylaw. In terms of cab fares, all taxi operators must follow a set fee schedule approved by regional council.
Despite the fact that Uber hasn’t always followed all municipal bylaw rules and regulations, I strongly believe that the company’s rapidly growing service is healthy competition for standard taxi companies, and it allows individuals to have more options if they need a ride somewhere. Many of the current bylaws are outdated and irrelevant in 2014. If someone needs transportation on a busy night, their best bet would be to use the Uber app on their smartphone.
Municipal bylaws in Waterloo Region and other regions need to be changed so that Uber can continue to thrive and succeed.