City council to debate Uber, taxi options for Edmonton

Thirty-seven people signed up to address the city’s executive committee meeting on the future of Edmonton taxis Tuesday night — including taxi drivers, Uber executives and representatives from the insurance industry.

Executive committee will take questions, discuss 10 possible taxi options

Uber drivers can be summoned with a few taps of your smartphone. (CBC)

City cab drivers descended on City Hall this evening to continue their fight against Uber taxis.

Thirty-seven people signed up to address the city’s executive committee meeting on the future of Edmonton taxis — including cab drivers, Uber executives and representatives from the insurance industry.

The ride-share program began operations in Edmonton in December, despite warnings from city officials and protests by licensed taxi drivers.

City officials have said in the past they consider the ride-share service illegal under the Vehicle for Hire bylaw, since Uber drivers are not licensed by the city.

Chris Schafer, Uber’s public policy manager in Canada, was the first to address council. He said public safety was of paramount importance to Uber, and the company would be in favour of regulation.

Minutes later, a local cabbie earned a round of applause when he pointed out that money made by local taxi drivers stays in Edmonton, while a share of Uber wages go elsewhere.

“Edmonton is our city,” he said.

Hundreds of Edmonton taxi drivers crammed into city hall on Tuesday to encourage councillors to stop illegal ride-share company Uber from operating. (Laura Osman)
A second driver who spoke said Uber shouldn’t be rewarded for not playing by the rules or paying for the same insurance.

During a break in the meeting, Mayor Don Iveson told reporters council has many areas of concern.

"First and foremost, safety of our citizens... on our roads is key," he said. "When someone is carrying on a business and may not have the adequate insurance, that's a real concern to us. But there's a lot of other issues in here, around supply and demand, adequate service, responsiveness, adoption of technology." 

In the past, city officials have raised concerns that Uber drivers may not have the proper insurance required to carry passengers for hire — which the Insurance Board of Canada has said could leave drivers personally liable to damages during a collision.

A representative for the insurance board said that driver coverage can be changed to account for passengers, but that premiums would then go up. 

The executive committee will also discuss 10 options intended to address taxi shortage during peak times in Edmonton — primarily on weekends and during the winter.

The options include:

  • Releasing a capped number of night plates, which allow drivers to only work Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during specified hours at night
  • Releasing an unlimited number of night plates
  • Releasing plates that allow drivers to operate only during winter months
  • No longer limiting the number of plates, and giving them to whoever wants them, as long as drivers hold taxi licences and follow all city regulations

CBC's Laura Osman will attend the meeting, and will live-tweet the discussion.


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