Toronto’s city licensing staff are gearing up to reveal its regulations that will be aimed at accommodating ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The U.S. company knows that for the most part it has customers on its side, so has started a PR campaign that is aimed at showing the city council that Torontonians want the service in their city.
On Tuesday the company launched an online petition which will be used to press councilors into supporting ride-sharing regulations. However, as other Canadian cities have shown, not any old regulations will suit Uber and the company is pushing for “smart” and “progressive” laws.
It is a make or break time for Uber in Toronto. The city voted last year to draw up regulations and amend bylaws to adopt ride-sharing services, but the city’s regulations could be ignored by Uber if the company does not agree with the changes. If that scenario unfolds then the company could leave Toronto entirely, as it has recently done in Calgary under similar circumstances.
The precedence for adopting Uber is in Edmonton, where the city drew up new regulations and the company agreed to them. Indeed, Uber would already be legal in the city if it was not for an auto insurance issue that has halted Uber’s legalization until the summer.
Toronto would face no such auto insurance problems as Aviva Canada recently debuted a new coverage that offers a simple and affordable policy for drivers of ride-sharing companies. The city is likely to mirror Edmonton’s regulations closely, which would mean vehicle checks, background checks for drivers, and Class 4 licenses for drivers.
Uber has not said specifically what it expects from the Toronto regulations, but the company has pointed out that it hopes the city makes it possible for the company to work in the city and is not merely closing the door.
Of the new media campaign and petition, Uber’s general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said that the UberX service aids in getting transport support to areas of the city that have been “previously ignored by transit and by traditional transportation options.”
“We’ve heard quite good feedback, we’ve heard that city council does have an appetite to move forward and create positive regulations.”
The big question is, would Uber pull out of Toronto if regulations are not what it expects? The company pulled out of Calgary, but has stuck around in other cities and has shown that it will support drivers even if they are unregulated and uninsured. Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, so Uber leaving would hurt the company, even if only from a marketing point of view.
Black says it is “too soon” to discuss whether the company would leave city, but perhaps it is worth asking if Toronto can afford to ignore the economic opportunities presented by the sharing industry?