Uber confident city will make necessary changes for it to operate legally

Uber is hoping the city will make adequate changes to a current ride-sharing bylaw that will allow them to operate legally in Edmonton.

'I’m actually really confident that we’re in a good place,' says Uber GM

Edmonton Uber general manager Ramit Kar says he's confident council's new ride-sharing bylaw will be favourable for the company's drivers.

Uber general manager Ramit Kar is all smiles these days.  

In the last year the ride-sharing service's app has exploded across the Edmonton region, gaining over 90,000 users who have downloaded the app, with 12,000 more joining last month.

But what makes Kar even happier is the possibility that city council could pass a favourable bylaw that would embrace the ride-sharing app later on this month.

"From the conversations we've been having, I'm actually really confident that we're in a good place," Kar said.

"And just as long as, knock on wood nothing changes, I'm actually very optimistic that Edmonton's going to be the first jurisdiction that actually embraces ride sharing in a regulatory environment."

Kar hinted that if things go as planned, riders could see a user fee implemented every time a customer calls for a ride — an additional flat fee that would be paid by Uber customers.

"They're going to be looking at a per-fee trip rather than a large fee going up front for when drivers are coming online.

"So it scales to the size of the business, and I mean it's what works in more jurisdictions that have been regulated than not."

Kar wouldn't say what the per-ride fee could be here in Edmonton, but said similar regulations exist in other Uber markets across America, ranging from a few cents per ride and higher.

The per-trip fee is a much more viable option for its business model, Kar said, compared to the current bylaw, which requires Uber drivers to pay what he described as an "exorbitant" $1,000 per driver.  

The current bylaw is expected to receive a second reading by council on Jan. 26.  

While Uber is hopeful council allows them to finally become legal in Edmonton, cab drivers are paying close attention too.

If the numbers Uber states are true, 90,000 users in Edmonton over the last year translates to a lot of rides taken away from cab drivers.

"We have to put in extra hours to make a decent living, " said cab driver Anil Samuel.
Yellow cab driver Anil Samuel wants the city to level the playing field.

The 53-year-old has been behind the wheel for 20 years, and said he too has noticed Uber's impact within the last year, and it's not good.  

Instead of working four or five days a week like he used to before Uber rolled into town, he now finds himself driving cab seven days a week.

"Our gross has gone down, and we're putting in about 14 to 15 hours a day just to make ends meet," Samuel said.

Other drivers share the same story: They want the city to level the playing field and make Uber play by the same rules.

Coun. Michael Walters is confident the city will come up with a solution to make it possible for both Uber and the city's taxi service to work together.

"We're trying to facilitate and create a bylaw that works for everybody and it's not going to be perfect," Walters said.

He wouldn't elaborate about the proposed bylaw, but said the city has looked closely at Seattle's model where Uber operates legally and a per-trip fee is in place.   

"No one's going to be doing cartwheels over the outcome, I don't imagine," Walters said.

"But our job is to try and create a space where both of those parts of the vehicle-for-hire industry can be successful in this city."


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