Ride-hailing startup TappCar eyes Calgary as it prepares Edmonton launch

Uber may not be willing to operate in Calgary but TappCar, a new ride-hailing startup in Alberta, sees no problems with the city's newly approved regulatory bylaw.

Edmonton-based company plans to start in provincial capital but is keeping track of Calgary market, too

TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said the Edmonton startup is now officially available in Calgary. (CBC)

Uber may not be willing to operate in Calgary but TappCar, a new ride-hailing startup in Alberta, sees no problems with the city's newly approved regulatory bylaw.

TappCar spokesman Pascal Ryffel said the Edmonton-based company is preparing for a March launch in the provincial capital and has been watching recent developments in Calgary with interest.

"Right now, of course, we're focused on Edmonton because we're from here and this is our first kick at the can," he said. "But we are always interested in operating in jurisdictions that are open to us."

On Monday, city council voted to allow for ride-hailing services like Uber, which had previously been illegal under the city's Livery Transport Bylaw.

Uber, however, said the city's regulations are too onerous and announced it will not resume operations in Calgary.

The new bylaw had been months in the making, after a judge granted the city's request for an injunction against Uber last November.

The city's legal move came after the company unilaterally launched its lowest-cost ride-hailing service, UberX, in Calgary in October.​

Following Monday's vote, Uber's general manager for Alberta, Ramit Kar, called it a "really unfortunate day" for drivers and riders in the city.

'Unworkable' rules for Uber

Kar described Calgary's $220 in annual per-driver licensing fees and relatively stringent requirements for background checks and vehicle inspections as "unworkable" for Uber drivers, particular those who work part-time, and urged the city to adopt regulations more similar to Edmonton's.

In January, Edmonton council approved a bylaw that would see the city collect a per-trip fee of six cents in addition to an annual lump sum of $50,000 paid to the city directly by the company, which Kar said is more feasible for most drivers, who drive less than 10 hours per week.

Ryffel, however, said Calgary's rules seem like "very basic regulations" to him and wouldn't pose a problem for TappCar if it were to expand southward.

"I think any company that wants to operate in Calgary should be more than willing to follow those rules," he said.

"I don't think there's anything arduous about getting some background checks and paying some fairly minor registration fees. That's not a lot to ask from the City of Calgary from a company that could make millions of dollars in that jurisdiction."

Ryffel said TappCar plans to carry full commercial insurance for its drivers and offer rides both through a mobile app and a more traditional phone dispatch system.

No plans for Lyft in Calgary

Uber is by far the largest player in the app-based, ride-hailing market globally but another American-based company, Lyft, has been making gains.

Lyft operates in hundreds of U.S. cities and the company's value is estimated in the billions, but a spokesperson said Calgary is not currently on its radar screen for expansion.

"While Calgary would be a great city for Lyft, we have not made any plans to launch there at this time," Danyelle Ludwig, a communications officer with the company, told CBC News in an email.

With files from Allison Dempster


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