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City looks at charging Uber more than $50K to operate in Hamilton

Hamilton council moving to regulate Uber as the service has quickly established a pool of hundreds of drivers in the city.

Uber has hundreds of registered drivers and more than 12,000 active users in Hamilton

The city of Hamilton is pondering two licensing categories for ride-hailing services. One would regulate Uber, which under the draft rules would pay $50,000 plus a $20,000 dispatch fee. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

The city is creating a new law to license Uber and other ride-hailing services. And a draft copy proposes charging the company $50,000 for its drivers operating in Hamilton, plus a $20,000 dispatch fee.

The report also reveals just how quickly Uber has made inroads in the city since it launched here in July 2015.

It says Uber has 513 drivers and 12,066 active riders as of Jan. 1. By comparison, the city licences 447 traditional cabs and 1,200 drivers. 

Officials are drafting two licensing categories for "private transportation providers (PTPs). Under the draft law, commercial PTPs with more than 50 cars, such as Uber, would have to pay $50,000 plus a $20,000 dispatching fee.

I'd like to pursue it in an incremental manner. Do it as a pilot project and review it in the future.- Councillor Sam Merulla

It also proposes a $400 licensing fee per vehicle for PTPs, and a $60 annual fee for drivers.It also requires Uber drivers to have police checks and provincial spot checks for safety, and have clear markings on their vehicles.The new categories are an attempt to harness the impact of the popular ride-hailing service, provide some regulation and even the playing field with the traditional taxi industry.

Taxi drivers have complained that it creates an unfair playing field, since they undergo stringent and expensive insurance, training and safety regulations.

The new rules are only in draft form right now, says a report from city staff and draw on experiences in Edmonton and Calgary. The city will get public input this summer and bring a more final version to city councillors in the fall. The city will review how it licenses taxi drivers at the same time.

The report, which city councillors will discuss at a general issues committee on Wednesday, suggests one category for commercial PTPs with more than 50 cars, and one for independent PTPs with fewer than 50 cars, which would require the $400 per year licensing fee which would vary depending on the driver's situation, but not the $20,000 dispatch fee. The dispatcher fee for independent PTPs would be $1,000.

Hamilton taxi drivers also have to be licensed, and receive training that includes geography, customer service, tourism, hospitality, defensive driving, communication skills and cab maintenance, says the city's bylaw governing cab drivers. 

Taxi cab owners in Hamilton pay an annual licensing fee of $4,345 the first year, and $578 to renew each year. Taxi cab drivers pay an annual licensing fee of $169.

Uber could not be reached for comment.

Sam Merulla, the Ward 4 councillor who called for a new licensing category, says the licensing fee for Uber doesn't seem like enough, "but it's a start."

"I'd like to pursue it in an incremental manner," he said. "Do it as a pilot project and review it in the future."

Merulla will also introduce a motion on Wednesday for the city to try to get a court injunction every time it identifies an unlicensed Uber driver.

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