News / Calgary

Uber-enabling fee structure praised by Calgary economist, booed by industry

Rideshare licensing fee details called backroom deal by Calgary taxi company

Roger Richard, owner of Associated Cab said he's concerned this is a backroom deal.

Metro File Photo

Roger Richard, owner of Associated Cab said he's concerned this is a backroom deal.

To some, Calgary’s rideshare legalization was far from perfect, to others it wasn’t broke – but the city’s attempts to fix their fee structure for transportation network companies breaks the balance for some.

According to Trevor Tombe, economist at the University of Calgary, the new licensing fees make becoming a driver accessible for part-time and full-time drivers – the workers Uber attracts.

In the past iteration of the bylaw, fees fell on drivers’ shoulders, at $220 annually for a license; it penalized people only looking to casually pick up rides.

“Unless you drive a lot, that really does add up to the equivalent of a very high per hour cost for a part-time driver, and that will limit the willingness of those casual driver to become Uber drivers,” said Tombe. “A small fee per trip doesn’t overly burden part-time versus full time drivers.”

Tombe said other bylaws across the country go by the fee trip and per driver charge. When looking at Uber drivers in the states the city’s old bylaw and new bylaw are comparable in terms of average earnings if drivers are working over 100 hours per year.

The proposed changes mean transportation network companies would brunt the cost of licensing. So, depending on the number of drivers, there’s a range of annual fees, a $15 per driver fee and a $0.20 per trip fee to round out administrative costs.

But what makes sense for Uber, may not be the perfect fit for other operators. TappCar, which operates under a similar model in Edmonton, told Metro they aren’t keen on the new approach.

“If you reduce the per-driver cost, it benefits the larger companies that perhaps have a business model that tends to have more turnover,” said TappCar spokesman Pascal Ryffel. “As an industry, if we’re looking for more professional drivers, the proper skills, and training, we should keep with the system we currently have.”

Ryffel said the change is significant, and they’re concerned about the lack of consultation.

“There should be no rush to get this right,” said Ryffel.

Roger Richard, Associated Cab owner said the new provisions were “totally written by Uber.

“We’ve had no consultation, we were not made aware of it, and now it’s affecting the TNCs, it’s affecting taxi and limousines,” said Richard. “It’s a deal between city hall and one operator, is that fair for the rest of them? I’m looking at complaining to the ethics commissioner, this city should not be allowed to do backroom deals on these issues.”

The city will be holding a special meeting, open to the public, on Thursday to discuss the changes with the Livery Transport Advisory Committee. If accepted, the recommendations will go to council for November.

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