Hamilton

Uber will be safer and more easily identified under new law: city

The new rules calm a nearly two-year battle between Uber and local taxi drivers.

The new rules calm a nearly 2-year battle between Uber and local taxi drivers

The City of Hamilton has passed a new law licensing Uber and its some 900 drivers here. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Local Uber cars will soon be easily identifiable and have proper taxi insurance now that Hamilton city councillors have passed a new bylaw regulating the ride-hailing service.

It was the wild west.- Ken Leendertse, city director of licensing

City council's general issues committee voted Wednesday on a new personal transportation provider (PTP) law to regulate companies such as Uber.

Among the biggest change for users: proper identification on Uber vehicles showing that they work for the company. That prevents someone from claiming they're a proper driver when they're not, said Ken Leendertse, the city's director of licensing.

Before this, "it was the wild west," Leendertse said.

"There are a lot of things we can do working with Uber as now a licensed entity to ensure public safety."

A taxi driver protests Uber in Toronto on June 1, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The new rules mean the city will have a database of the some 900 Uber drivers in Hamilton, and can ensure they're following the rules, he said. It already keeps track of the roughly 1,200 taxi drivers employed in Hamilton.

I think eventually, there'll be stricter rules for Uber.- Jagtar Singh Chahal, Hamilton Cab

The new law also legally prevents Uber drivers from picking up roadside clients. Rides can only be hailed through the app.

It prevents "the person who shows up at a bar and says 'Hey, I'm an Uber driver," Leendertse said. "That's not allowed."

Under the new law, Uber will also pay a $50,000 annual fee plus six cents per trip, as will other ride-hailing services with more than 100 vehicles. That will generate about $110,000 per year for the city, some of which will go to a new full-time staff member to handle the licenses.

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The new law is also aimed at leveling the playing field between Uber drivers and traditional taxi drivers. In some areas, it succeeds, said Jagtar Singh Chahal, chair and CEO of Hamilton Cab.

The draft bylaw includes a framework that is good for riders, good for drivers, and will help foster greater choice in transportation options in Hamilton.- Susie Heath, Uber 

For example, the city will reduce the annual fee for taxi drivers from $194 to $100. And it leaves the curbside hails to traditional taxi companies.

Taxi companies still have stricter requirements, such as a mandate to provide accessible service, take a city training course and equip their cabs with cameras.

But Chahal said this is just a start.

"I think eventually, there'll be stricter rules for Uber," he said.

In an emailed statement, Uber said it commends the city on the new bylaw.

"This is an important first step towards Hamilton joining other Canadian jurisdictions like Niagara Region, Toronto, Waterloo Region, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton in adopting a progressive regulatory framework that embraces ride sharing," said spokesperson Susie Heath. 

"The draft bylaw includes a framework that is good for riders, good for drivers, and will help foster greater choice in transportation options in Hamilton."

City council still has to ratify the decision on Jan. 25. After that, it becomes law.

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