Lyft plans to operate more than 100 vehicles in Hamilton

The company hopes to launch here by the end of the year. It will add to the hundreds of Uber drivers already on the road.

It will add to 100s of Uber drivers already on the road, but one cab company owner isn't worried

Lyft, founded in 2012 in San Francisco, plans to come to Hamilton later this year. (Chris Heigren/Reuters)

Lyft hopes to launch its service in Hamilton by the end of the year, and plans to run more than 100 vehicles here.

The Hamilton launch will be one of the ride-hailing service's first expansions into Canada, and will compete with hundreds of Uber drivers already working in Hamilton.

Lyft has applied to the city to be licensed under its new personal transportation provider (PTP) law.

Under the licence, which costs $50,000, Lyft can have more than 100 drivers in Hamilton, said Ken Leendertse, the city's director of bylaw enforcement.

The company applied about a month ago, Leendertse said, and the city will make a decision "very shortly."

"We're making sure they have all the documentation," he said Monday.

"Lyft is going to be an issue to Uber, and not so much to us," says Jagtar Singh Chahal of Hamilton Cab, shown here in 2013. "Those guys will compete against each other.” (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Like Uber, Lyft users download the app to their smartphones, and request a ride to specific pickup and drop-off locations. More than 50,000 Torontonians have already downloaded the Lyft app, Tim Houghton, Lyft Canada's general manager, told CBC News this month.

Lyft spokesperson Campbell Matthews wouldn't disclose how many drivers will be part of the Hamilton launch, just that it will happen soon.

"We plan to operate in Hamilton as part of our launch in the greater Toronto area before the end of the year," she said.

Uber's Hamilton arrival caused the city a lot of stress last year. The company was violating the city's taxi bylaw, but drivers cancelled enforcement officers' accounts once they learned the officers were using the accounts to enforce the bylaw, Leendertse said last year.

The confidence level is back in the taxi industry.- Jagtar Singh Chahal, Hamilton Cab

Many of Hamilton's 1,200 taxi drivers, meanwhile, argued the company had an unfair advantage, since they're highly regulated when it comes to vehicles, training, maintenance and fares.

So in January, the city passed the new PTP bylaw. It mandated, for example, that Uber vehicles have the proper identification, and that large ride-hailing services pay a licensing fee of $50,000 per year plus six cents per trip. The same rules will apply to Lyft.

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. So it's still not an even playing field, said Jagtar Singh Chahal, chair and CEO of Hamilton Cab.

But Chahal isn't too worried about Lyft. His company has updated its fleet, rebranded, marketed on social media and launched an app with a 20 per cent discount. The latter puts them lower than Uber's rates, Chahal said. So Hamilton Cab is doing fine.

"We are competing with all these ride-sharing companies, and people love it," Chahal said.

Uber and Lyft 'will compete against each other'

"The confidence level is back in the taxi industry, and now more than ever, people are coming on as independent owner/operators.

"Lyft is going to be an issue to Uber, and not so much to us. Those guys will compete against each other."

Like Chahal, Anthony Rizzuto of Blue Line Taxi said customers are sticking with local companies. The PTP bylaw, he said, "helped the city get a little bit more money in their pockets," but didn't correct inequities.

Blue Line is doing OK though, he said.

"People are starting to realize when they take a local taxi, that money is staying in town."


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca