Manitoba

Putting safety in the driver's seat: New ride dispatch service aims to provide safe rides for all

A new vehicle dispatch service will soon provide another option for people looking for safe rides, for both passengers and drivers. The company, called gozo, will pair people looking for safe transportation with drivers who meet a set of standards that ensures all passengers feel comfortable and respected.

Human rights advocates launch gozo, a car dispatch service that promotes safety and tolerance

Christina Brouzes, co-director of Ikwe Safe Ride (left) is teaming up to help train drivers for gozo, co-owned by Michelle McHale (right). (Holly Caruk/CBC)

A new vehicle dispatch service will soon provide another option for people looking for safe rides, for both passengers and drivers.

The company, called gozo, will pair people looking for safe transportation with drivers who meet a set of standards that ensures all passengers feel comfortable and respected.

"We're really excited to be providing a service that people have been asking for," said gozo co-owner Michelle McHale.

"People have been looking for another way to get around the city that allows them to feel safe, that they don't have to think twice about who they're getting in a car with," she said.

"We make it very clear that we have a zero-tolerance policy against racism, sexism, fat-phobia, transphobia, homophobia, ageism, ableism, all of those kinds of things," said McHale.

The vehicle-for-hire bylaw came into effect on March 1 in Winnipeg, requiring all drivers to be licensed with the city, as well as be registered with a licensed dispatcher.

Human rights advocate McHale, along with business partner Uzoma Asagwara, came up with the idea after seeing the need for safe and accepting transportation.

Michelle McHale says her and co-founder Uzoma Asagwara, came up with the idea for a safety-based service after hearing there was a huge demand from women and the LGBT community. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"It's [for] somebody who is a newcomer to Canada who has experienced discrimination, or somebody who doesn't identify as straight, or isn't white, any of those reasons people have disclosed experiencing discrimination and harassment," said McHale.

McHale was the force behind organizing the first Pride parade in Steinbach, Man., in 2016, and also briefly entered the NDP leadership race the following year. Asagwara is the founder of Queer People of Colour Winnipeg.

The company, set to launch by mid-May, won't be an on-demand vehicle-for-hire service, like Tappcar or Cowboy Taxi. Instead, the service will be on a contract basis for groups or organizations, and people that need pre-booked trips.

McHale says having a contract in place allows them to set up an agreement that riders must sign declaring that they will behave in a respectful and safe manner.

Community ride-share group, Ikwe Safe Ride, to train drivers

The company will also screen drivers and provide specific training to ensure they are accepting of all types of fares.

"[We want to] ensure that we have drivers that know how to create a safe atmosphere when providing transportation and also make sure that the drivers have access to safe work," said McHale.

"We also will, if people self-identify, give priority to female or non-gender conforming folks, because the reality is … there isn't gender parity in the transportation industry," she said.

"So the next question for folks usually is will you hire men? And the answer is we may, but everyone's going to have to pass the screening and everyone's going to have to pass the training." ​

gozo will partner with existing ride-share service, Ikwe Safe Ride, to train drivers and help co-ordinate contracts with community groups who require their services.

Ikwe does not offer vehicle-for-hire services because they don't have a license or a dispatcher. Instead the service relies on donations and operates through a Facebook group with volunteer drivers.

Ikwe co-director, Christine Brouzes, says they welcome the partnership, because offering pre-booked and contracted rides is something they are often asked for and can't provide.
Christina Brouzes, co-director of Ikwe Safe Ride, says demand for safe transportation keeps growing, and they can't provide the same kind of service gozo will. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"We're so excited and happy to hear that there is yet another alternative for transportation coming to Winnipeg and this is the first that we've heard of that has a focus on safety and caring about their passengers and their drivers," said Brouzes.

Brouzes says Ikwe has given 47,000 rides since the service started over two years ago. She said since ride-for-hire bylaws came into effect, demand has gone up.

"The number of ride requests have gone up drastically as well as community organizations reaching out to us to arrange some of their transportation," said Brouzes.

Brouzes says drivers are needed to fulfil the demand, and says training for gozo should be underway by mid-April.

McHale says they will be able to dispatch taxis, limos, or vehicles-for-hire, on a freelance-type basis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Holly Caruk

Video Journalist

Holly Caruk is a video journalist with CBC Manitoba. She began her career as a photo journalist in 2007 and began reporting in 2015. Born and raised in Manitoba, Holly is a graduate of the University of Manitoba's film studies program and Red River College's creative communications program. Email: holly.caruk@cbc.ca

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