Uber, other ride-sharing services bylaw set for vote in Waterloo Region

Uber may soon have the green light to operate in Waterloo region as council gets set to vote this summer on a new bylaw regulating it and other such ride-sharing services.

'Public input was clear, they wanted both options-they wanted choice,' region says

A new bylaw encompassing "traditional and non-traditional taxi services," finalized Wednesday by the region's licensing and hearing's committee will now head to council and is expected to pass in August 2016, the region announced in a news release Wednesday. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Uber is one council meeting vote away from being allowed to operate legally in Waterloo region after a new bylaw encompassing "traditional and non-traditional taxi services" was finalized by the region's licensing and hearings committee yesterday. 

The bylaw will now go to Region of Waterloo council and is expected to pass in August 2016, the region announced in a news release Wednesday.

"Public input was clear, they wanted both options – they wanted choice," the release states.

"Drivers, owners and brokers will now have a similar license structure that achieves public safety and consumer protection."

Cameras remain a sticking point

Under the new regulations, traditional taxis and their ride-sharing counterparts will share a single set of insurance rules and face the same driver screening standards and vehicle requirements. That means all vehicles-for-hire will need to provide $2M in liability coverage and make proof of that coverage available to customers, regional clerk and director of council services Kris Fletcher told CBC News.

The committee also agreed to freeze the existing ratio of 1 traditional taxi per 1650 people. There had been an earlier proposal to limit the ratio to 1:1500, Fletcher said. Non-traditional taxis would face no such limits, but they would be prohibited from operating from designated taxi stands.

As for whether cameras will be required for vehicles-for-hire, Fletcher says that debate remains active.

The region's taxi industry would like to see cameras required for both traditional and non-traditional vehicles, Fletcher said. Council will have to decide on that aspect of the bylaw when it meets in August.

"Our priority throughout the process was to ensure passenger safety and consumer protection," Fletcher said in the release.

Proposed start date: October 1

The bylaw comes after a months-long wait by the region for the Ontario government to take the lead and put in place province-wide regulating measures that would put bring taxis, limousines and other vehicle-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft under a single legal umbrella. 

In February, regional councillor Jane Mitchell told CBC News that the region had hoped to implement a bylaw by Jan. 1, but that councillors decided to wait to see if the province would take action before then. 

When provincial legislation didn't happen, the regional government pressed on. If council passes the bylaw as expected, it could be implemented as early as Oct. 1.