Saskatoon inches closer to setting ride-hailing rules

Ride-hailing services may face some, but not all of the same rules as taxi drivers and owners in Saskatoon.

Taxi owners, drivers want a 'level playing field' with Uber, Lyft drivers

The City of Saskatoon will allow cabs to continue using designated taxi stands, but ride-hailing services will have to find their own stopping areas. (CBC)

Taxis and their owners want ride-hailing services to play by the same set of rules as they do, with a few notable exceptions.

Saskatoon's standing committee on transportation decided Wednesday Uber and Lyft drivers should not be allowed to stop at taxi stands.

And unlike taxis, they would not be allowed to pick up passengers who simply hail them from the street.

They would, however, have to charge the same $3.75 base fare — known as the drop — as cabs.

And they should have to prove their drivers use safety features similar to the mandatory in-car cameras in every Saskatoon taxi, said city councillor Randy Donauer.
"I don't want them advertising hails as they drive around the city," said Randy Donauer. He and three other councillors said the city should not require Uber or Lyft drivers to display decals in their car. (CBC)

"If they don't want a camera, I want the administration to bring forward recommendations on what they do have to meet," said Donauer. 

Conflicts a possibility: councillor

He said he's also concerned about potential conflicts between ride-hailing services and taxi drivers.

"That may sound ludicrous but when the situation at the airport changed, we had conflict and that's not uncommon in North America," said Donauer. "I don't want either one of these industries to be a target."

Taxi drivers currently have to submit criminal record checks to the city each year, and pay $375 to obtain a licence. Ride-hailing companies, however, would pay a flat fee to obtain city business permits for their fleet.

City officials initially suggested $25,000 for a fleet of more than 50 cars, but council members suggested they aim higher.

"I actually think that the taxi and ride-sharing industry is going to have a more complicated administrative burden for the city than cannabis," said Clark. "It's not seven stores, like cannabis. It's hundreds of drivers."
Accessibility requirements are spelled out in the City of Saskatoon's bylaw for taxis, but it's unclear whether the same rules would apply to any ride-hailing businesses. (CBC)

He's asked city officials to consider the cost of regulating all vehicles for hire, and report back with suggested licensing fees that cover the city's costs.

Concerns about service animals raised

The mayor also wants more clarity on how ride-hailing companies will serve people with disabilities.

"We want to make sure people aren't being left on the curb in minus 40 or being driven by because of a service animal," said Ashley Nemeth, one of an estimated 1,600 visually-impaired people in Saskatoon.

"The reality is it's happening every single day in cities across Saskatchewan," Nemeth said. "I don't want to have to argue my way into a ride."
Ashley Nemeth is a motivational speaker, who works for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. (Submitted to CBC)

The committee's recommendations now go before all council members at their next meeting, on July 23.