Calgary

Uber legalization in Calgary closer as council votes to modernize taxi bylaw

City council has taken another step towards legalizing ride-hailing services like Uber, after council voted 13 to 2 in favour of modernizing the city's taxi bylaw. Full regulations have yet to be drafted for council's final approval.

Changes could allow taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber compete

The city is seeking a temporary injunction against Uber. That matter will be back in court on Nov. 20. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

City council has taken another step towards legalizing ride-hailing services like Uber, after council voted 13 to 2 in favour of modernizing the city's taxi bylaw.

Full regulations have yet to be drafted for council's final approval.

The new rules were originally expected to come forward at a city council meeting in December, but now the final draft will be ready before Feb. 22. 

'Hybrid system'

Council has tentatively approved a "hybrid system" under which Uber could charge what it wants, but only accept passengers through the Uber app.

If they were a responsible company, then... they would probably want to pull their product off the road until that insurance product is available- Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Uber drivers would also need to be licensed by the city, their vehicles would be inspected to ensure they're safe, and drivers would be required to carry insurance approved by the provincial government.

Existing taxi companies would be allowed to set their own rates, but only for passengers who book through an app.

Most taxi fares currently happen through street hails and picking up customers at taxi stands, so rates set by the city would still apply in those cases.

Uber started operations in Calgary in October. It has been warned repeatedly by the city that it is operating illegally and Calgarians have been asked not to use the service for safety and insurance reasons.

The city is seeking a temporary injunction against Uber. That matter will be back in court on Nov. 20.

A few dozen Uber drivers have voluntarily agreed to not drive while the legal issues are sorted out.

Two dissenters

While council approved changing the taxi bylaw, two councillors were not sold on the idea.

Councillor Ray Jones said he couldn't support changing the bylaw.

"It's annoying that somebody can come in and tell you how to run your own business and when the business has been running fine and all we have to do is add more plates," Jones said.

Councillor Andre Chabot also voted against the proposed changes.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says until the final wording is approved by city council and the province makes a decision about a new type of insurance product which would cover drivers with ride-hailing companies, Uber should withdraw its service.

"If they were a responsible company, then I would suggest to them that they would probably want to pull their product off the road until that insurance product is available," said Nenshi.

Uber defiant

Uber's general manager in Alberta, Ramit Kar, says he's pleased with council's decision but he's disappointed the city is continuing to push ahead with its attempt to get an injunction against Uber drivers.

Kar defends Uber's decision to launch as it has given Calgarians a chance to see the product and how it works.

Uber says it will work with the city on the new regulations but it plans to remain in service in Calgary as it considers itself to be not covered by the city's rules.

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