Edmonton City Councillors have decided in an 8-4 vote on Wednesday evening to make ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft legal in their municipal jurisdiction.
“The regulatory framework in the new bylaw helps to answer citizen and business demand for more choice in the vehicle for hire industry,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson in a released statement. “It represents a significant evolution of the industry and creates a model that will enable the taxi business and private transportation providers to co-exist.”s
According to city documents, ride sharing services will be able to legally operate in the city when the new bylaw goes into effect on March 1, although it comes with stipulations such as proper commercial insurance, class four driver’s licenses, and a minimum $3.25 fare for each trip made.
Ride share drivers will also be subject to a criminal record check and an annual vehicle inspection by a licensed garage and mechanic.
The hybrid bylaw introduces ride sharing services, called Private Transportation Providers, and updates policies dealing with taxis. Ride share drivers must only pick up passengers through a mobile app service; only taxis can pick up passengers from street hails and taxi stands.
“Edmonton is in a leadership position among Canadian cities in developing and implementing a response to ride sharing in the vehicle for hire industry,” says Peter Ohm, acting branch manager for Current Planning. “Our goal was to find the right balance between recognizing the long history of service by the taxi business and being responsive to innovation in the industry.”
“We will continue to closely monitor the impact of these changes and make adjustments, if necessary, to address potential issues, such as predatory pricing, that may negatively impact the industry.”
But the process to approve ride share in Edmonton was not uncontested. Edmonton’s taxi drivers and taxi companies have long fought against Uber, going as far as protesting the first Council meeting on the issue on Tuesday. Dozens of police officers were called to City Hall to bar emotionally charged taxi drivers from entering and disrupting the deliberations inside Council chambers.
Ride sharing services face an uphill battle in other Canadian municipal jurisdictions, particularly in municipalities in Metro Vancouver where locally elected officials are generally opposed to taking steps towards legalization.
B.C. Minister of Transportation Todd Stone has indicated that he is considering adopting policies that will allowing Uber’s operations to complement taxi services. But even if the provincial government provides the go-ahead, municipalities like the City of Vancouver still have the final say on whether such services can operate within their jurisdictions.
In Calgary, Uber is looking to return to the city after a succesful court injunction by the municipal government forced the service to shut down on November 21. Deliberations from last week’s Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee on recommendations on changing the existing bylaw to accommodate ride share will be presented to Calgary City Council on February 22.
Uber is currently available in a number of Canadian cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, Ottawa, Kingston, the Niagara region, Windsor, Quebec City, and London.
The smartphone app-based service had operations in Vancouver briefly in 2012 before provincial officials forced it to cease all operations.