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News on Uber in Edmonton

Uber Rival TappCar Launching March 14, and it’s Legal

A new company that emerged through Uber’s missed opportunity to operate legally in Edmonton says it will be launching on March 14. TappCar announced its presence last month as U.S. ride-sharing giant Uber pulled out of the Edmonton market while it awaits auto insurance clearance in the city.
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The company said at the time that it hopes to fill the void left by Uber, while also taking some of the company’s passengers. While Uber has courted controversy with local municipalities and the traditional taxi industry, TappCar says it is different as it is a mix between a taxi and ride-sharing services.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said last month. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

Indeed, while TappCar is tiny compared to the $40 billion valued Uber, it perhaps offers a more appealing services, especially for authorities. The company works like Uber, using a smartphone application to connect passengers with freelance drivers. The difference, and likely to be key for regulators, is that the company requires its drivers to have both a Class 4 driver’s license and commercial auto insurance.

In this respect TappCar drivers are taxi drivers in all but name, and already the service is being promoted as a way for traditional cabbies to earn extra money.

“I think people are interested in our business model because it’s a local company that is following all the rules,” said TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel.

Mohamed Sidahmed, a former Uber driver, said he has turned to TappCar because of the company’s legal position in Alberta.

“I see the difference that we had to do a criminal check and lots of training, and lots of safety,” he said.

Sidahmed pointed to Uber’s future, where its drivers will also need criminal checks and class 4 permits, which cost him a total of $150. While TappCar is appealing, Uber has a dedicated consumer-base and many consumers simply do not care that the company was operating unregulated in Edmonton and beyond.

While Uber has now left the city, it will likely be back and in a legal capacity during the summer, providing TappCar with huge competition. It is clear that the sharing market is kicking into gear, Uber will not have things all its own way, and Canada simply has to adopt the industry as it is coming either way.

Uber Forced to Play Waiting Game in Edmonton

Uber has said it will pull out of Alberta on Tuesday if the provincial government does not help the company to become legal in Edmonton. The city voted to legalize the UberX service last month, but Uber has been able to meet the agreed criteria for legalization because Albertan authorities will not amend bylaws to accommodate the company.

The stipulations involved UberX drivers agreeing to specific licenses, vehicle checks, and to having a sufficient and legal auto insurance policy. The latter of those presented Uber with the biggest challenge, but the company says it found a private insurance company willing to offer a policy. It is though that Intact Insurance was the provider, finalizing a collaboration started with Uber late last year.

“The insurance policy that we have is a commercial policy that works for ride sharing and quite frankly, doesn’t add any material costs to drivers,” Ramit Kar, Uber Alberta’s general manager, said.

Alberta originally said that it could not guarantee that Uber would receive its auto insurance coverage for the March 1 date which Edmonton set for legalizing the company. The finance ministry in the province released a statement last week that said:

“The Superintendent of Insurance has been involved in constructive discussions with Intact insurance,” the statement said. “The issue remains under review and no agreement been reached.”

Now Alberta has put a firmer timeframe on when a bylaw to accommodate Uber will be ready, with Transportation Minister Brian Mason saying the province had rejected Uber’s request to have the bylaw ready for March.

“It’s our position that people driving vehicles for commercial purposes are not using their vehicles for the same purposes as those with a Class 5 license,” Mason said.

“The bottom line is that the Class 4 requirement is essential for the safety of both passengers and drivers.”
While Toronto voted to regulate Uber, the company continues to operate while Ontario’s largest city prepares those bylaws. It is unlikely the U.S. ride-sharing service will continue in Alberta and has already said it could pull out of the market this week. Even if the city amends bylaws, it is not clear Uber would accept the changes. In Calgary last week the company rejected accommodating bylaw changes and decided to pull out of the city.

Uber has requested that the city of Edmonton postpone its bylaw until June 1st, which is after the province says it will have prepared a bylaw. Edmonton authorities have yet to respond.

Uber Rival Wants to Pounce on Uber Edmonton Departure

Uber says it will be pulling out of the Alberta market after failing to get a bylaw amendment from the province that would allow the company to become legal in Edmonton. However, while the industry leading ride-sharing company is on the verge of leaving the province, another smaller firm is looking to steal some of Uber’s thunder.
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A bylaw passed in Edmonton last month stated that UberX drivers would be legal if they had a bi-annual license, vehicle checks, and sufficient auto insurance. The company has since been unable to secure any of those things, with Alberta authorities saying any bylaw amendment is unlikely to happen until the summer.

As a response Uber is suggesting it will leave the province on Tuesday, Mar 1, which is when the Edmonton bylaw comes into effect. However, one company can benefit from Uber’s departure, with TappCar saying it is ready to take some of Uber’s Alberta market.

Like the UberX service, TappCar allows passengers to connect with freelance drivers via a smartphone application, and the company says it is positing itself for the lucrative Edmonton market.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

It is unclear whether TappCar has the desired criteria to appease the city of the province, and the company is almost certainly going to be subject to the same bylaw rules as Uber.

Toronto could learn from Edmonton regarding Uber, says Mayor Tory

Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service after a city council vote earlier this week. The move could be an example to other Canadian cities, including Toronto, which itself has already made moves to accept Uber. However, the council is still largely divided on ride-sharing companies in Canada’s largest city, but Toronto Mayor John Tory praised Alberta’s capital for its historic vote.

“What we are trying to do here is exactly what they have done, which is to fashion a bylaw which achieves a balance,” Tory said. “They’ve come up with one answer to that in Edmonton, which we can learn from.”

The city of Toronto was the first to vote favorably for Uber, agreeing to create regulations for the company in October last year. However, regulations and changes to the law that will accommodate UberX have not yet been created, and the U.S. based company has compounded the issue by continuing to operate in Toronto even though the council asked it to halt operations in the city until regulations are created.
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Tory said the challenge for the city is creating a bylaw and then having it passed through the council via a vote. There is still opposition to Uber in the Toronto City Council, with some members siding with the traditional taxi service in a confrontation that is continually looking like a pitch battle. Edmonton’s breakthrough this week could point Toronto in the direction it needs to go to accept Uber, with the Alberta city even getting Uber to comply to some rules.

Indeed, it seems Uber is willing to meet some stipulations if the company feels it is being accommodated by a municipality. For example, the San Francisco giant agreed with the city of Edmonton to stop operations in the area until it is legalized on March 1. It is a stark contrast to the Toronto situation, where Uber decided not to cease operating in the city while the council dallies over what to do next.

Tory has been critical of that stance, but he has voiced again that there is a way forward for the UberX service to be adopted in Toronto. Councillor Jim Karygiannis, a known supporter of the taxi service, is less enthused about Uber and says he is “very concerned” by Tory’s comments:

“I am surprised that the mayor this morning said that we should let council not decide, we should let the legal department decide if we have an injunction or not,” Karygiannis said. “I believe that it’s up to council to decide.”

Edmonton may have trailed a blaze and showed other Canadian cities a viable way to legalize Uber, but Toronto’s path to the same conclusion is expected to take longer. Indeed, a breakthrough may not come until the end of the year, which is when the Toronto licensing staff are expected to make recommendations on how the city could regulate Uber.

Uber is now legal in Edmonton

The city of Edmonton has become the first municipality in Canada to vote for the legalization of Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service. After two days of debates that were plagued by protests from taxi drivers, the city decided to amend a bylaw that allows Uber to operate in Edmonton.
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The decision is the first of its kind in the country and will come into effect from March 1, 2016. In reaching its verdict, the City Council actually managed to get some concessions from Uber. Indeed, Edmonton has achieved things that other cities have simply failed to do.

The decision is based on the caveat that UberX drivers must have legal auto insurance coverage before March 1, 2016. Uber has agreed to cease operations in Edmonton until that time, something other cities have been unable to get the company to do. The U.S. based ride-share firm also agreed to the cities minimum ride fee of $3.25 after previously saying it was against a minimum fare.

Uber will also have to pay a flat rate of $70,000 per year to operate in the city.

The auto insurance conundrum is now the biggest obstacle facing Uber in Edmonton and if things remain as they are now then Uber drivers will not be insured by March 1 and the company will not be able to begin operations in the city.

Aviva Canada recently announced an auto insurance policy designed for ride-sharing companies such as Uber, the company will debut the coverage in February. The problem for Uber in Edmonton is that Aviva’s coverage is only arriving in Ontario for time being, although the legalization of Uber in Edmonton could push Aviva to expand its policy.

Either way, at the moment Uber is not in a position to fulfill its side of the Edmonton deal and arrive in the city March 1, but the company is not worried:

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to make sure that we’re in compliance by March 1st,” Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, said.

Edmonton consumers support Uber

Uber is currently locked in a precarious situation in Edmonton, with the company concerned by a proposed bylaw that would see UberX drivers paying a biannual fee of over $900 to work in the city. The U.S. ride-sharing firm has urged Edmonton to reconsider and it seems that consumers are very much on the side of Uber.

A research survey conducted by Nanos Research was released on Monday and found that the majority of Edmonton consumer support Uber in the city.

64 per cent of those asked said they would support Uber in the city, while 15 per cent said they would sort of support it, with those under 50 particularly in favor. Uber has responded by saying the city could be the first Canadian jurisdiction to get behind ride-sharing and find good ways to regulate the UberX service.

“It’s great to see how popular ride sharing has become in Edmonton, and we are thankful to Edmontonians for their support for this new transportation alternative,” said Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, in a news release.

“Edmonton could be the first Canadian jurisdiction to embrace ride sharing with smart regulations as has been done in over 60 North American jurisdictions.”

The Edmonton city council is expected to amend the bylaw on Jan. 26 to allow Uber to operate in the city legally, which would be a first in Canada. The company still faces obstacles in the city though, such as a lack of auto insurance coverage, but that could be solved by Aviva Canada’s announcement of a ride-sharing policy.

By far the biggest issue however is the proposed license fee, which Uber says is simply too prohibitive and could lead to it pulling out of Edmonton entirely. Ironically it would be the first time the company has been forced out of a Canadian city, after so many jurisdictions tried to ban the UberX service.

Uber urges Edmonton to reconsider $920 fee

The city of Edmonton has been one of the fiercest rivals to Uber in Canada, and now the ride-sharing company is urging the city to revise its planned fees for ride-sharing. The city created a proposed bylaw last year that would see drivers paying a fee of $920 every two years to work for ride-sharing companies in Edmonton.

One of the big advantages for Uber is that its drivers can sign up for the service and pay little to become a driver, making it more affordable than the traditional taxi route where drivers pay hundreds of dollars before even getting a license to drive a taxi. Edmonton’s fee is a first step towards the city regulation the UberX service, but the company says the cost for drivers is prohibitive and may force it to abandon operations in the city.ubertaxi protest Toronto

It is an interesting situation, because the cynical may think that Edmonton is placing the fee high purposely to rid itself of UberX, after-all the service has not been welcomed warmly by authorities around Canada. Numerous cities have tried to ban Uber, so is Edmonton’s driver fee a path to doing just that or is the city merely looking for the best way to incorporate UberX into the city alongside traditional taxi services?

That remains to be seen, but at the moment Uber is urging Edmonton to reconsider the bylaw and move to a model that is similar to the United States. In the U.S. Uber drivers pay 50 cents per ride, but in this model the cost is placed on the consumer in the billing process. The bylaw is set to be reconsidered on Jan. 21 before a city meeting on Jan. 26, but any decision by the council will be weighted by the knowledge that at the moment Uber is operating illegally in Edmonton.

There are 4000 drivers already working for UberX in Edmonton, just a year into the company’s operations in the city. 90,000 people have downloaded the app in that time, taking ride from drivers who largely work part-time.

Uber to spread wings in Canada during 2016

Uber has swept up plenty of interest in 2015, but the controversial company is not quite done yet and if 2015 was the year in which Uber fell into the minds of Canadians, 2016 could be when the company takes the country by storm.

At the moment Uber is known for its UberX ride sharing service that lets users select nearby drivers to pick them up pre-paid, a sort of 21st century take on the traditional taxi idea. However, taxi drivers have not welcomed this new dawn with open arms and see Uber as a genuine threat to their livelihood and industry. Protests and government attempts to shut Uber down have followed, but the company has persisted in Canada and continues to grow and slowly find regulatory support.

Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016
Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016

While other industries may have looked on with sympathy for taxi drivers, it seems Uber’s cross hairs are not just on the peer to peer driving sector. The company is not content with seismically changing the taxi industry and will now move to food delivery, carpooling, and health care.

Of course, food delivery and carpooling seem like natural progressions for Uber, but health care ambitions will rightly raise some eyebrows.

“Uber’s goal was, and is, to be the world’s most powerful logistics company,” said Aron Solomon, the innovation lead for the MaRS’s LegalX team, which connects lawyers and technologists. “Anything that can be delivered, will.”

Speaking to CTV, Solomon added: “So if (Uber) has food, people are going to want food from Uber,” he said.

UberEats is already in Toronto and in many aspects mirrors Uber’s driver sharing company in that it allows users to see a list of meals in nearby locations and have them delivered within 10 minutes. UberEats even lets users choose food from over 100 restaurants in Canada’s largest city and have those genuine menu items delivered within 45 minutes.

Toronto is ground zero from many of Uber’s enterprises and the city became the first in Canada to vote on regulating the UberX service. Barhop is another idea that is currently getting a trial outing in Toronto, allowing up to five commuters to carpool into various Toronto financial and commercial hubs for a flat rate of $3.50 or $4.50.

New app gives taxi drivers Uber like service

A new app being developed by taxi drivers aims to combat the rise of Uber in Canada, a clear case of if you can’t beat them you should join them. Taxi associations and drivers across the country have fought the rise of the Uber X ride sharing application that they see as a threat to the taxi industry. While governments also combat Uber, increasingly the company is being accepted and regulations considered for its operation.

New App Gives Taxi Drivers Uber Like Service
New App Gives Taxi Drivers Uber Like Service

After protests, legal battles, and consumer warnings, taxi drivers are left with options. However, a new app called The Ride aims to take the fight back to Uber’s doorstep by offering a very similar service to consumers.

Like the Uber X service, customers sign up to the app with a profile and use their device GPS to locate and hail taxi vehicles, with the price and waiting times given before getting into the vehicle. Unlike Uber, The Ride will also offer consumer options in the form of information on other public transport with prices and wait times. There is a $2 charge that is prefixed for using the service to hail a taxi.

“There have been a lot of players in the taxi industry saying this is needed as part of a solution to compete against Uber,” said Nick Quain, CEO of Toronto-based CellWand Communications, the company behind the app.

“What we did is combine that with transit options. So that in Edmonton you’re talking about bus and LRT,” said Quain. “We’re really an aggregation of all your transportation options.”

Just two weeks ago Downtown Toronto was brought to a standstill by protesting taxi drivers, while it was a similar story in Edmonton in April. However, the protests are thought to have backfired in the consumer space as customers continue to embrace the UberX model despite the fact it is operating in Canada illegally.

Toronto became the first city to vote for regulating Uber, but the changes are not expected until next year, while the city promised more traditional taxis and easier routes to licenses in a bid to protect the industry. Arguably The Ride and any future apps like it pave the best path for the taxi industry in the long term as instead of combating Uber taxi services will actually be using the model to enhance their own business.

Canada Competition Bureau says authorities should accept Uber

Taxi associations across Canada are waging a war against Uber Technologies Inc. and more specifically its UberX driver sharing service. It is a war that is slowly being lost and it seems Uber has another ally in the form of Canada’s Competition Bureau, the watchdog saying that governments and taxi authorities around the country need to accept the competition Uber provides.

UberX Insurance
UberX Insurance

The Competition Bureau says governmental authorities that control and regulate taxi associations need to be more creative in the face of new competition from Uber and similar companies. Municipalities should look to find ways of regulating UberX and seeks methods of relaxing regulations placed upon taxis and issuing more licenses for drivers.

The view of the Canada Competition Bureau may prove to be controversial, after-all the watchdog is saying local governments should accept Uber, but does not factor in that Uber has been operating in Canada illegally and against the wishes of local authorities.

“When new regulations are needed, they should be limited to meeting legitimate policy objectives, like protecting the safety of passengers and drivers,” the bureau said.

Other things the watchdog suggest are:

  • Ease price controls, such as regulated taxi fares, to allow fares to be adjusted during periods of varying demand, such as weekends, evenings and bad weather.
  • Eliminate restrictions on the number of taxi plates issued and move to a system where additional qualified drivers may operate as vehicles?for?hire.
  • Allow all drivers to respond to street hails, regardless of whether they work for a taxi company or ride?sharing service, unless there is a compelling policy reason not to do so.
  • Provide incentives to drivers to operate accessible vehicles in areas where consumers are under?served.

The City of Toronto has recently voted to regulate the UberX service, but the company continues to operate illegally in the city as regulations will not be in place until 2016. Across Canada it is a similar story with cities accepting that the rise of Uber is inevitable, and the issue left is how authorities will protect the traditional taxi industry.

Taxi associations and unions representing taxi drivers have waged a war with Uber, with the Ontario Association seeking a temporary injunction against UberX. However, increasingly it seems that Canada, while not embracing Uber, is accepting the company and others like it, so how authorities will aid taxi services will be important. More licenses issued will mean more drivers and taxis on the road, an attempt by provincial governments to make taxis competitive.