News / Calgary

Uber sets Calgary launch date ahead of lifting court injunction

Injunction was filed almost one year ago to prevent the rideshare giant from operating illegally in Calgary. Now, the city has changed bylaws

Uber general manager Ramit Kar said they have hundreds of drivers ready to go in Calgary.

Helen Pike/ Metro

Uber general manager Ramit Kar said they have hundreds of drivers ready to go in Calgary.

It’s got to be the most awaited sequel since the last Godfather, or Finding Dory.

On Wednesday, Uber gathered reporters outside of the Calgary Municipal Building for an “exciting announcement.” Pending the court ordered injunction is lifted, they will resume operations on Dec. 6.

“We expect to have quite a few drivers, to have a reliable experience, right on day one,” said Uber Alberta general manager Ramit Kar. “We’re likely going to open up Calgary and surrounding areas, as soon as we begin operations in Calgary.”

That means behind the scenes, administration’s legal team, and Uber’s lawyers will have to agree to sit down and talk costs. For the city, building up their case, and fighting for an injunction while Uber operated illegally cost a ballpark $20,000 – money the city wants to get back.

“What we’re talking about in terms of the injunction costs, obviously we had a pretty significant operation when we charged the drivers a year ago,” said Ryan Jestin, director of Calgary Community Standards. “Our plan is we would ask for those charges to be covered by Uber – so the costs of filing the injunction and our operation.”

But they won’t hold up the rideshare giant’s operation to do so. According to Jestin, the city has already agreed to lift the injunction, so long as Uber is willing to talk costs.

Community Services director Ryan Jestin.

Helen Pike/ Metro

Community Services director Ryan Jestin.

Kar would only add that Uber is in discussions on “all legal matters” with the city.

According to the city, the injunction could be lifted within days, making Uber’s plans to operate above bar.

“We’ll continue discussions, but I’m optimistic everything will work out by next Tuesday,” said Kar.

Kenneth Javaid, a driver Uber brought to the press conference, said he had been laid off from his oil and gas work. He worked for Uber during the six weeks they were operating illegally.

“Our job is just pick up and drop off, no cash or machine involved,” Javaid said. He noted if Trudeau’s pipeline announcement means more oil and gas jobs, he’d gladly take a full time job, but continue to work for Uber on the side. “I’m really happy to do this job.”

Taxi vs Uber

Although Uber is keeping the exact number of drivers ready to operate close to their chest, the city said between 200 and 300 drivers are ready to take to the streets.

That’s compared to the 222 taxi plates council approved on Monday, in the industry’s attempt to compete with the rideshare giant.

Roger Richard, Associated Cab president.

Helen Pike/ Metro

Roger Richard, Associated Cab president.

Still, the taxi industry is crying foul over the new Uber-friendly bylaw rules, lobbying the city to seek all costs, even lost revenue from drivers, out of the ridesharing company’s deep pockets.

Associated Cab president Roger Richard even went so far as to accost Jestin while he was being interviewed on television.

“Are they going to pay the drivers losses too?” asked Richard. “You’re talking about the city portion…how about the business that taxi drivers and limousine drivers lost.”

Jestin said it’s a good question, but he doesn’t have the answer, as he’s not the city’s legal expert.

And does Uber think they were given special privileges? Here’s their take:

“We’ve been in continuing conversations for the better part of two years with city council, the mayor’s office, and administration,” said Kar. “Quite frankly, the changes that were approved Monday are pretty much the standard that’s been found across Canada.”

Uber has seen that their service grows the pie in other jurisdictions. They've seen that Uber riders do not necessarily choose taxis in cities where the service isn't available.

Uber has seen that their service grows the pie in other jurisdictions. They've seen that Uber riders do not necessarily choose taxis in cities where the service isn't available.

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