News / Edmonton

Solving the “fascinating” planning puzzle: Stringent rideshare rules for Uber, TappCar one step closer

Taxis speak out against city’s “special treatment” of rideshare companies

Salwinder Shatt, a United Taxi driver in Edmonton, says he's satisifed with proposed new stringent rules for ride share companies in the city.

Jeremy Simes / Metro

Salwinder Shatt, a United Taxi driver in Edmonton, says he's satisifed with proposed new stringent rules for ride share companies in the city.

After allegations of "special treatment"—and a heated debate at City Hall Monday—Edmonton is one step closer to tougher rules for rideshare companies.

City councillors at the community and public services committee voted in favour of proposed bylaw changes Monday that would mean higher fees for Uber and TappCar, and stiffer fines for violations, like accepting street hails.

The new rules would also require the cars to remove logos from the side doors of their vehicles to prevent customers trying to flag them down.

Hailing, currently only allowed for taxis, has been a particularly contentious point for cab drivers, who have long argued against what they say is unfair treatment from the city. The city allowed rideshare companies to operate without buying pricey taxi plates, but stipulated they could not pick up people on the street.

Except, according to Salwinder Dhatt, with United Taxi, some did anyway.

“We lack enforcement,” he said, adding that he's seen Uber or TappCar vehicles waiting outside nightclubs to accept hails from bar patrons.

Michael van Hemmen, a public policy manager for Uber, told councillors the company doesn’t approve of drivers accepting hails, and said they could be fired if they do so.

But he took issue with the proposed per-trip fee hike, which would go from six cents to 30 cents. He said the company will unload the increased costs to users of the service.

“Though it’s just cents, it adds up,” he said. “We’ll be asking council to take a further look at that. It’s Edmontonians’ money and they deserve for it to be well accounted.”

TappCar representatives suggested the fee hike and removing the decal could be detrimental to the organization. However, administration acknowledged the changes would essentially get them to choose to become a taxi company or be more in line with rideshare rules.

“It’s a fascinating puzzle deciding what the right thing is here, and I think it’s been commented on a couple times today, the business and the industry is evolving,” said David Hales, branch manager with development services at the city, during the debate

“(Ride-share technology) is disrupting the entire industry, and I don’t think we’ve found where normal is yet, but we’re getting closer now.”

Though taxi drivers raised concerns, Dhatt said he sees the proposed changes as a good first step.

“We want a fair and level playing field,” he said. “I feel this bylaw is very satisfied from our point of view.”

The changes will head to city council next Tuesday. If approved, they will take effect on July 15. Staff will monitor how the tweaks are affecting industry groups, and report back with further changes next year if warranted.

A breakdown of the proposed changes for rideshare companies in Edmonton.

Metor Graphic

A breakdown of the proposed changes for rideshare companies in Edmonton.

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