'It's a great day in Saskatoon': City the 1st in Sask. to have Uber

Uber is live in Saskatoon, with the company saying dozens of drivers are ready to offer rides right now.

Transportation network companies were approved by city council late last year

Michael van Hemmen, Minister Joe Hargrave and MADD Canada's Michelle Okere were the first to take an Uber ride in Saskatoon. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

Uber is live in Saskatoon, with the company saying dozens of drivers are ready to offer rides right now.

The app is up and running with a service map that's restricted to Saskatoon city limits, said Michael van Hemmen, Uber's general manager of cities for Western Canada.

He made the announcement at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, after SGI Minister Joe Hargrave joined him to be the first to take an Uber ride in the city.

Dozens of drivers were ready to accept passengers on Tuesday, according to Uber. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

"I was kind of thrilled, I tested out the new driver and she seemed pretty good. I rated her pretty highly on the app," Hargrave said.

"It's a great day in Saskatoon."

The announcement was solely for the company's uberX service, which is a mid-range option.

Pricing

Prices vary throughout the day, meaning it might change between the morning and the afternoon. The company offered examples of what people can expect to pay:

  • $10-$12 - A trip from the University of Saskatchewan to a downtown pub
  • $12-$13 - A trip from College Park to Broadway Theatre
  • $19-$21 - A trip from Forest Grove to SaskTel Centre

The road to ride-hailing

Late last year, the city gave the green light to transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, after the province changed its regulations.

"We're very excited to be live in Saskatoon today and look forward to being a part of the community and being a part of the transportation network in Saskatoon for generations to come," van Hemmen said.

He said the process to become an Uber driver takes about a week. It includes a criminal record check, vehicle inspection and submission of driver history.

Things like Uber Pool, which allows a vehicle to take strangers as a carpool, or UberXL, which offers SUVs and vans, are not currently available in Saskatoon.

Hargrave and MADD Canada have been big proponents of ride-hailing as a means of curbing drinking and driving in a province where the issue is prevalent.

"This is something that really fills the need for people who have been out ... especially at peak times late at night," said Michelle Okere, MADD Canada's regional manager.

Hargrave said he would have preferred to see ride-hailing in place before Christmas.

But van Hemmen said the pace at which Saskatchewan went from no regulation to being ready for TNCs — along with a first-of-its-kind public auto insurance set-up for vehicles driven by TNC drivers — is the fastest Uber has seen across Canada.

He encouraged other provinces like Manitoba and British Columbia to follow Saskatchewan's lead.

Saskatoon is the first city in Saskatchewan to have Uber service. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

Opposition

Local taxi companies have argued TNCs would lead to an unfair playing field.

Under Saskatoon's bylaw cab companies and TNCs must charge a starting rate of $3.75 and both have to do criminal record checks on their drivers.

Lyft has not said when it might begin operations in Saskatoon.

Regina is still in the process of approving ride-hailing in its city.

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