5 things that must change before new Uber rules come into effect
It's still a long road to that first legal Uber ride
City council has earned Edmonton some notoriety by making it the first Canadian city to regulate Uber, but there's still a lot of work to do before the company can take its first legal ride.
The new rules governing Uber and the taxi industry come into effect on March 1.
1. Uber must build trust with the city
Since Uber arrived in Edmonton in December 2014, the company has been operating illegally, flouting the city's bylaws.
Several times over the past year, councillors said they couldn't trust a company that would operate illegally for so long to follow their new regulations.
Uber executives had input on the bylaw changes council approved to make room for the company, and they call it a "workable framework."
"We want to build the trust with city councillors and the city," said Uber Alberta President Ramit Kar.
"I think the best thing we could do to build that trust is to be in full compliance."
Still, some councillors are leery. Especially since Uber plans to continue to operate illegally until the new bylaw comes into effect.
2. Province must approve insurance for Uber drivers
That brings us to the biggest hurdle of all. Uber can't operate legally under any circumstances without approved insurance.
Right now, the only option is costly commercial insurance.
Uber is working with Intact Insurance on a new package that would be cheaper and more suited to a part-time driver's needs. But that package still hasn't been approved by the office of the Superintendent of Insurance.
An Alberta government spokesperson said there is no timeline for when the superintendent will reach a decision.
That leaves Uber in a difficult situation. If the insurance isn't available by March 1, no Uber driver will be able to comply with the new regulations.
So will Uber shutdown until the proper insurance becomes available, or continue to subvert the law?
The company has not given a straight answer.
3. The city must improve enforcement
According to Uber, nearly 4,000 drivers have signed up to the platform. Yet according to the city, only 70 court cases pending against drivers right now.
The city's new regulations give enforcement officers some teeth to hold the company accountable if it chooses to operate after March 1.
Firstly, fines will increase from $1,000 to $5,000.
Peter Ohm, the sustainable development manager for the city, said the department also plans to hire more enforcement officers in time for the new rules to take effect.
The city plans to finesse an identification system for Uber cars so enforcement officers can tell if the driver is licensed by the city. Likely the city will issue removable decals to licensed drivers.
The details of that system will be finalized before the bylaw comes into effect.
4. Uber must share its data
The other part of the enforcement puzzle comes down to data sharing between the city and Uber.
The company is supposed to give six cents per ride to the city as a licensing fee. The only way to tell if the city is getting its due is for city staff to review Uber's records.
"Uber will transfer information to the city," Kar said.
Uber is now working on an IT system to allow that to happen. Kar said the company and the city still haven't worked out exactly how it will work.
5. The taxi industry must adapt. Fast.
The city's new regulations will have a seismic effect on the taxi industry, and council fully admits it doesn't know how large the repercussions will be.
Taxis must not only compete for passengers but drivers who may be attracted to looser regulations under Uber.
To survive the taxi industry is going to have to get very creative.
"I'd like to think that we're flexible enough to adjust to it," said Yellowcab president Phil Strong.
Ohm said he hasn't heard of any interest from new companies looking to compete with Uber under the new regulations, but said he has heard from traditional cab companies who might want to take the Uber approach.
"That model is being discussed as a model for everybody," Ohm said.
Three months isn't much time for a company to completely change its business model. Strong said his management team is meeting to come up with a plan.
"It's going to be difficult, let's not kid ourselves," he said.