Uber, ridershare taxi cab apps to be examined at city committee meeting

A city committee will take another look on Friday at app-based taxi service providers currently offered in Calgary.

Report going to city committee Friday warns of safety risks

The app Uber has been trying to break into the Calgary market, but the City of Calgary has some concerns with some app-based taxi service providers. (CBC)

A city committee will take another look at app-based taxi service providers on Friday.

While the city admits apps like Uber could be effective at easing a taxi crunch during peak times, there are concerns about Uber's operation — and rideshare apps in general.

A report that will be presented to the committee gives details of a free weekend trial offered last year by Uber through a local limousine company.

However, the company wasn't big enough to handle the demand and ended up hiring sedans that weren't properly licensed through the city.

"Our investigation determined that there were unlicensed drivers, unlicensed vehicles," said Marc Halat, the city’s chief livery officer.

"They were providing a service to Calgarians and they were put at risk." 

'We can't take that risk'

Uber cut ties with their Calgary partner  Executive Limousine — which the city then shut down.

"We have done in excess of 30 investigations this year already on unlicensed operators, and the stories are hideous," said Halat. "We can't take that risk."

He says the city has never had any contact with Uber about setting up in Calgary. 

Still Uber maintains their service is safe — and much needed.

"At the tap of a button, you have the driver's information, the photo of the driver, as well as the vehicle licence plate," said general manager Jeff Weshler.

He said Mayor Naheed Nenshi requested to look at how the innovation can benefit the existing framework.

Uber also plans to be at Friday's meeting to pitch the benefits of their app. 

Uber must play by city rules

Halat says Uber is welcome to do business in Calgary, as the competition is good, but it has to play by the city's rules.   

But taxi companies say they're doing a good job and talk of anybody else coming in to their market isn't sitting well.

"The only thing they're going to offer is a free for all," said Roger Richard, the president of Associated Cab.

"What I don't want to see is a system that doesn't protect the public, hurts the industry, hurts the drivers and there's no benefit to it."

Meanwhile, the city has another plan to address the taxi shortage.

"We're going to be coming to council with an ask to enhance our compliment of licences," said Halat. 
That means about 300 to 400 more taxi licences could possibly be approved sometime in the fall.