Uber and Lyft get green light to hit Saskatoon streets, despite taxi industry concerns
Date that ride-hailing cars might join taxis on the road remains unclear
Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies (TNCs) — also known as ride-hailing companies — now have the legal green light to start riding on Saskatoon streets.
City councillors approved the change Monday afternoon after months of debate, during which local taxi companies argued TNCs would lead to an unfair playing field.
The bylaw approved Monday treats both types of companies equally in several ways: both have to charge a starting rate of $3.75, for instance, and both have to do criminal records checks on their drivers.
Cab companies have remained upset that the number of TNCs will not be capped, unlike the number of cabs in the city. Cabs are currently capped at 210.
Monday's city council decision was made possible by the recent introduction of provincial regulations paving the way for TNCs.
Steadfast opposition to the end
The local bylaw has been in the works for months and subject to scrupulous review by cab companies every step of the way.
That oversight did not let up Monday.
Dale Gallant, the owner of the United Cab Group of Companies, said the city was "biased" in favour of TNCs.
Gallant took issue with the city not requiring TNCs to have in-car cameras, while still requiring cabs to have them.
Gallant said cameras in TNC cars would, for example, help prove whether a TNC car rode off with a customer who had originally requested a cab.
Another cab representative made a bold threat.
Carlo Triolo, the general manager of United Cabs, said some cab drivers might begin limiting their fares to credit card holders who book through an app, in order to remain competitive with TNCs.
Uber and Lyft rollout timeline unclear
Representatives from Lyft and Uber were both at city hall Monday, but neither could say when their companies would have cars on the road.
Michael Van Hammen of Uber did have one point of criticism for the city's new TNC bylaw. He wants the licensing fee for TNCs (which would amount to 22 cents charged for each trip) lowered to match those in similarly sized cities like London or Kitchener. Those cities charge 11 cents per ride, according to Van Hammen.
It's the second recent example of Saskatoon drawing criticism for a licensing fee on a new industry. Saskatoon decided to charge owners of new recreational cannabis stores an initial licensing fee of $20,000. The City of Regina, by contrast, charged nothing.
The ability to better meet demand in Saskatoon was a constant theme among pro-cab speakers Monday.
In a new report, the city said that a study found that 81 per cent of taxis reach a passenger within 10 minutes, while only two per cent of passengers wait 20 minutes or more.
The bylaw is just an interim step, Mayor Charlie Clark said.
The city's first stab at a comprehensive vehicle-for-hire bylaw that would cover taxis and TNC is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2019.