Edmonton·Updated

Taxis and Uber reject city's proposed ride-share regulations

Uber drivers may no longer have to operate rogue on the streets of Edmonton, if city council passes a new bylaw drafted to regulate ride-share companies.

Edmonton could become first Canadian city to legalize Uber

Uber has been operating illegally in Edmonton since it rolled into town last December. That could change under new rules, which will go before council for approval this month. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Uber drivers may no longer have to operate rogue on the streets of Edmonton, if city council passes a new bylaw drafted to regulate ride-share companies.

If new rules are approved, Edmonton would be the first major Canadian city to legalize ride-share companies like Uber.

But Uber spokesperson Xavier Van Chau dismissed the proposed regulations as "unworkable."

Uber has been operating illegally since December 2014.

According to the proposed changes, Uber would be able to run its business in Edmonton, providing drivers purchase a licence from the city and have proper insurance.

The regulations will cost Uber drivers, who have until now been operating for free. The city will expect drivers to pay nearly $1,000 every two years for the appropriate licences to legally pick up fares.

In a statement, Van Chau said the cost of obtaining a licence would be too much for drivers to bear.

"Most driver partners sign up on a short-term or part-time basis," he wrote. "With such rules, riders face the prospect of higher prices and unreliable service."

He said Uber would prefer the city follow the example of other cities that have opted to regulate ride-share companies directly.

Some taxi drivers are also displeased, suggesting the regulations are discriminatory.

Jasbir Gill, president of the Edmonton Taxi Association, said Uber would have an unfair advantage because its fares will remain unregulated under the proposal.

He said there was not enough consultation with taxi stakeholder groups.

Scott Mackie, manager of current planning, said no industry stakeholders were involved in drafting the bylaw, but the city weighed public interest in the new service with the safety of passengers and drivers.

"The approach that … council is taking, is that they want a system that responds to the needs of the citizens of Edmonton, while protecting public safety," he said.

The drafted bylaw also requires Uber to share its data about drivers and rides taken. Van Chau said Uber intends to continue working with the city on drafting new rules.

A judge struck down the city's attempt to temporarily stop Uber's illegal operations with a court injunction in April. The city still has an application for a permanent injunction against the ride-share before the courts.

If the company is legalized under the new rules, director of licencing Garry Dziwenka said the city will seek advice from its lawyers about what to do next.

Taxis also headed for change

Council will also consider easing rules that regulate taxis and limousines.

Garry Dziwenka, the city's director of licensing, announced proposed changes to regulations for ride-share and taxi drivers. (CBC)
The new bylaw proposes cutting surcharges for vans and late-night service, and removing the cap on the number of accessible cabs allowed to operate in the city.

Taxi drivers will no longer have to undergo driver's training, English language testing, or provide a driver's abstract to get their licence from the city.

"The reason is that these requirements are better controlled by the industry," said Dziwenka.

City councillors will hear input from the public on Sept. 16 before voting on the changes.

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