Greater Sudbury drives closer to regulating Uber service like taxis

Sudbury is one step closer to regulating Uber.

Greater Sudbury to create bylaws around online transportation network service before it even comes to the city

A few years ago no one had heard of the company called Uber. Now the ride-sharing app created by American multinational online transportation network company — also called Uber — is popping up all over Canada. But it's not in Sudbury yet, and officials are working on a plan to regulate services like Uber before they arrive. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
City staff have started work re-writing its taxi bylaws to cover new players like Uber. City councillor Deb McIntosh pushed for this to happen before the company launches in Sudbury. She spoke with reporter Marina Von Stackelberg. 4:40

Sudbury is one step closer to regulating Uber.

The ride-sharing app produced by an American multinational online transportation network company isn't in the city yet — but councillors are looking to change the current taxi bylaw to include ride-sharing services.

The service works through a phone app — also called Uber — which connects people needing transportation with a stranger offering a ride.

A new report suggests possible rules, including requiring Uber drivers and cabs to pay the same operating fees—$250 per car for the first year and $125 annually after that.

Another suggestion is that Uber drivers would be required to show background checks and insurance.

The regulations would help level the playing field for taxis, Councillor Mike Jakubo said.

"Ridesharing is the way of the future. And apps [produced by companies] like Uber are coming. It's a matter of time," Jakubo said.

"Whether we take the different steps to regulate it or not, it is going to show up on our doorstep."

Lesson learned from other cities

Greater Sudbury's administration says regulating Uber will better protect citizens and the city if there are issues.

"In Toronto they have had some challenges. Some of their prosecutions were thrown out of court because the bylaw didn't deal with the rideshare industry," said Caroline Hallsworth, executive director with Greater Sudbury Administrative Services.

"So, if we don't regulate it, it's actually harder to enforce than if we do."

Proposed rules also include letting taxis arrange rides using an app, like the way Uber does. And Uber drivers could also be banned from operating at taxi stands.

Coun. Gerry Montpellier said he doesn't see how all those rules could be enforced.

"I'm not a fan of these Uber outfits," he said. "Enforcement of private vehicles is impossible."

Fear of the unknown?

The Greater Sudbury staff report found 91 per cent of taxi drivers want the service banned.

But the majority of Sudburians surveyed—many of them aged 18 to 34— say they want Uber.

Coun. Deb McIntosh said it's important to have options.

"Sometimes there's a fear of new technology," she said.

"But you don't have to use it. You can use the cab companies. You have a choice. We're a huge geography and I think there is a market for Uber in the outlying areas where they're underserviced by taxi cabs."

Staff say they hope to have a bylaw drafted by August.

with files from Marina von Stackelberg


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