Calgary

Uber could soon be legal in Calgary as taxi committee votes for new rules

The City of Calgary's taxi committee has green-lighted a change that would allow Uber and other ride-hailing services to operate legally in the city.

Council still needs to approve committee-endorsed plan allowing vehicle-for-hire firms to operate

A city hall committee has approved changes to the taxi bylaw, which could pave the way to legalizing ride-hailing services like Uber. City official Marc Halat says the changes will ensure safety for the travelling public, whether they use taxis or what he calls transportation network companies like Uber. (CBC/Reuters)

The City of Calgary's taxi committee has green-lighted a change that would allow Uber and other ride-hailing services to operate legally in the city.

The company started operating here last month, but the city has been advising people to avoid Uber, saying it cannot guarantee the safety of the unregulated operation.

On Tuesday, the city's Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee examined five policy options on whether to allow the company and others like it and, if so, under what conditions.

The committee followed administration's advice, voting in favour of the third option, which would amend the livery transport bylaw to allow private for-hire companies to operate — but not by picking up customers who hail cars on the street or who call ahead.

Instead, companies such as Uber would only be allowed to accept fares through their own apps, which set their own rates.

Taxi companies could also set their own rates if customers book through a company app.

Otherwise, taxis would continue to charge city-determined rates if people hail a taxi on the street or call a dispatch centre.

Roger Richard, president of Associated Cab, says he is happy with the committee's decision overall, but has some outstanding concerns.

Roger Richard, president of Associated Cab, says he can support changes to the livery bylaw to allow Uber to operate in Calgary, so long as there is a level playing field in terms of the rates companies are allowed to charge. (CBC)

"It's got to be a fair, plain, level field. If one is allowed to regulate its own rate, well, the whole industry should be able to do the same," he said.

Richard also called on the city to release the remaining taxi licences that were approved to be issued last year. Council approved 383 new taxi plates, but only released a third of them into the market.

"What one has to realize is that this is open competition. And, in order to have this type of competition, one has to have the supply and one has to improve their services," he said.

Marc Halat, the city's manager of compliance services, says the main goal is have a safe transportation network that allows both traditional taxis and Uber-like companies to be competitive.

"So, if council supports the directive going forward, you'll see changes with rate, you'll see changes probably with plate distribution," he said.

City council will consider whether to implement the policy change at its Dec. 14 meeting.

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