Council to consider adding cabs to combat Uber

Edmonton has to allow more taxi cabs to operate before it can drive Uber out of town, according to city staff.

City report recommends improving existing Edmonton taxi services to meet demand

Uber is seen on the iPhone of a driver. Uber has entered more than 100 markets, ranging from its hometown of San Francisco to Berlin to Tokyo. It began operating in Edmonton in December 2014. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Edmonton may need to license more taxis before it can drive Uber out of town, according to city staff.

Uber started operating in Edmonton late last month. Drivers charge for rides but do not hold taxi licenses from the city, which makes them illegal under the Vehicle for Hire bylaw. 

A report released Thursday outlines what can be done to steer people away from the car-sharing service. Uber allows customers to summon drivers through a smartphone app. 

In the report, staff said the public supports the use of apps to improve taxi dispatch but says Edmonton doesn't have enough licensed cars to meet the demand. 

Edmonton is short about 200 licensed taxis to meet the ideal ratio to population (17 cabs per 10,000 population). Only 1,319 cabs are legally allowed to operate within city limits. Local taxi service to the Edmonton International Airport adds even more pressure.

Staff made a number of recommendations which include removing the cap on the number of licences available to drivers and the development of a local taxpayer-funded taxi app.

Other options include releasing plates that allow taxis to operate only at night and on Friday and Saturday nights or plates that only allow taxis to work during the winter. 

None of the recommendations suggest working with Uber, or allowing the service to operate in the city.

City staff refused to comment on the content of the report before council’s executive committee discusses it on Tuesday.