A proposed new taxi bylaw for Waterloo Region could be the first municipal legislation to regulate ride sharing services, like Uber, in Ontario.
Under the new bylaw all Uber drivers would be required to have an auxiliary taxi driver licence, issued by the region. To be applicable for the licence, drivers would be required to have a GPS and a closed circuit television system installed in their vehicles, and commercial auto insurance policies for a minimum of $2 million.
'We feel we're slightly ahead of the game." - Kris Fletcher, Waterloo Region clerk
"The intent is to develop a bylaw that will in fact to have two classes of taxi. One would be a taxi cab that is metered and the second would be to establish a taxi auxiliary cab licence," said regional clerk Kris Fletcher.
Region looking to industry, residents for input
The region will be spending the next several months conducting extensive public consultations with all of the stakeholders involved in the new bylaw, from industry leaders like the Waterloo Region Taxi Alliance and Uber to residents using ride sharing services and businesses who rely on taxis.
In addition, three public consultation centres have been set-up at regional facilities in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, to give residents the opportunity to learn more about the new bylaw and voice their concerns.
"We feel that we're slightly ahead of the game," said Fletcher.
"We know other municipalities are looking at how they may or may not licence new, kind of emerging taxi type industries. Certainly we are at a draft bylaw stage and many other municipalities are not at that stage yet."
Taxi drivers say existing bylaw is unfair
Taxi drivers in Waterloo Region said it's unfair that to-date, Uber has been able to operate unregulated in the municipality. They staged a protest Wednesday afternoon at regional headquarters to express their frustration.
"Uber is here and they are picking up customers without any rules and regulations," said Sultan Amir, a taxi driver at the rally.
"I am a taxi driver and this is a taxi driver's desperation against Uber."
Local cab companies say they will continue to fight back against the ride sharing service, with one even going so far as to launch a similar, competing app.
"We have to up our game," said Peter Neufeld, president of Waterloo Taxi.
"They showed us maybe we were being a little lax and complacent...I'll tip my hat to Uber for that. They've opened our eyes. We can't be complacent we have to continue to strive to be better, improve our services and stay abreast of the latest technology."