Edmonton city council to investigate potential rule-breaking ride-hailing services

Traditional taxi drivers say companies like TappCar are breaking the city's new bylaw just months after it came into effect, but some councillors say the rules are still unclear.

Coun. Moe Banga says the rules surrounding the city's private transportation providers bylaw are unclear

TappCar is set to start operations on Monday, March 13. (CBC)

Traditional taxi drivers say companies like TappCar are breaking the city's new bylaw just months after it came into effect, but some councillors say the rules are still unclear.

As per the city's bylaw, private transportation providers (PTPs) are only allowed to pick up passengers for rides that are pre-arranged through their app, unlike regular taxis, which can be hailed at the side of the road.

The reason for this is to protect passengers from accidentally accepting surge prices. The fares of regular taxis are regulated by the city. 

Jasbir Gil, a representative of the Edmonton Taxi Association, said his organization has documented several cases of TappCar breaking the rules.

The city is not doing anything.- Jasbir Gil, Edmonton Taxi Association

He doesn't think enough has been done to enforce the city's new bylaw, which came into effect in March.

"We are very frustrated," he said. "We have sent them the video clips … but the city is not doing anything."

Coun. Moe Banga said he's received several complaints from members of the cab industry who say they've witnessed illegal street hails and other examples of rule breaking, but he says the rules aren't clear.

TappCar not breaking the rules, city administration says

Banga, Coun. Dave Loken and Coun. Mike Nickel plan to ask for a report from city staff, outlining how the department defines a street hail, and enforcement statistics since the bylaw came into effect.

Banga said he wants more specific details about how city peace officers are enforcing the bylaw's rules, particularly after midnight.

TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said it may appear that drivers for his company are picking up illegal rides, but that's not the case.

For example, TappCar signed a sponsorship deal with FC Edmonton to pick up spectators after soccer matches, but there is always someone on hand with an iPad to "prearrange" a trip through the app.

"We've had some complaints, but in every instance we've been able to prove that in fact that car was pre-booked," Ryffel said.

TappCar plans to employ the same system at a number of other events and festivals this summer, including Edmonton Eskimos games.

TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said the Edmonton startup will set up at several Edmonton festivals and events this summer. (CBC)

Garry Dziwenka, the city's director of business licensing and vehicles-for-hire, said TappCar isn't breaking the rules.

"Under the bylaw, that is prearranged," Dziwenka said.

"I don't know if I would call it a loophole, but for the traditional taxi industry, that is one of their concerns."

He said the bylaw could change if council chooses to tweak it when administration presents its report.

"As we grow into the bylaw there will be changes made to address issues that arise," Dziwenka said.

He expects to present council with more information on the city's new bylaw at the end of the year.