New ride-hailing service could join Uber on Ottawa's streets

The City of Ottawa is reviewing a second ride-hailing company for potential approval, less than five months after a bylaw came into force allowing Uber drivers to legally pick up passengers.

Rival company small, locally operated, city official says

The city is currently considering an application by a second ride-hailing company to operate in Ottawa, less than a year after allowing Uber to enter the market. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

​The City of Ottawa is reviewing a second ride-hailing company for potential approval, less than five months after a bylaw came into force allowing Uber drivers to legally pick up passengers.

Roger Chapman, chief of the city's bylaw and regulatory services, mentioned the impending licence as part of a broader update he delivered Thursday morning at a meeting of the city's community and protective services committee.

Chapman did not say which second company has made the application, saying only it's small and locally operated.

The company is not Lyft, which is available in hundreds of U.S. cities and has positioned itself as Uber's main competitor

Lyft has not yet expanded into Canada, according to its online list of cities where it operates.

Analyzing Uber data

As part of his update, Chapman said since Uber was officially legalized in September 2016, the city has been receiving data "on a daily basis" from the company.

The city has also hired an analyst whose specific job is to interpret that data.

Officers have carried out several hundred checks, both in uniform and undercover, since Uber was legalized, said Chapman, to ensure drivers are not taking cash fares or picking up passengers who hail rides on the street.

On the whole, Chapman said the bylaw department found Uber is complying with the bylaw.

Chapman said the city laid eight charges against three drivers in the months since the service was legalized, which he called "really insignificant". 

There are approximately 3,000 Uber drivers currently operating in Ottawa, and there have been 1.4 million rides in that time period, he said.

City staff will give another update six months after the bylaw's Sept. 30, 2016 enactment, and again after one year.

Roger Chapman, the city's chief of bylaw and regulatory services, told a committee Thursday that there have only been eight "really insignificant" infractions since Uber was legalized last year. (CBC)

'Breaking point'

Taxi driver Tony Hajjar, a vocal opponent of Uber's legalization during last spring's contentious debate, told the committee Thursday there were concerns that Uber drivers were picking up passengers near taxi stands — specifically at the Canadian Tire Centre and the Ottawa International Airport.

Many Uber drivers are former taxi drivers, said Hajjar, who know where taxi stands are and park nearby, siphoning off taxi fares.

"It was hard on all of us to accept," Ottawa taxi driver Tony Hajjar told councillors about their 2016 decision to allow Uber to operate in the city. (Kate Porter/CBC)

"There's going to be a breaking point, and I'm sure you don't want to see our breaking point. It is getting so tough on the taxi industry right now," Hajjar said.

Chapman said the city has been monitoring Uber drivers at two local taxi stands, at the urging of the local taxi drivers' union.

So far no Uber drivers have been non-compliant, he said.

Hajjar also apologized at Thursday's committee meeting for an emotional outburst he made after Uber's legalization was decided.

"I know you will remember the way I blew up at the city council [meeting]. I do apologize," Hajjar said. "But I hope you realize the shock of realizing that [taxi drivers] had lost everything on that day. It was hard on all of us to accept."

with files from Kate Porter