City taking wait and see approach to rideshare companies

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Hoping to avoid the issues that have plagued Calgary City council when it comes to allowing rideshare companies such as UBER to operate in Calgary, City of Airdrie staff recommended a “wait-and-see” approach in a report made Nov. 7 to Airdrie City council.

“Staff had decided we were going to leave (the Taxi Bylaw) as it is for now,” said Chief License Inspector Colleen Kinley. “We’re not putting Transportation Network Companies (TNC) into the bylaw – we’re just leaving it as the Taxi Bylaw for now.

“It’s a very fast changing industry and we know that Calgary and Edmonton both spent lots of time and money writing their bylaws last year and now they’re re-writing them. We don’t want to be in the same boat.”

Council directed staff to begin looking into bringing ride-for-hire or rideshare services to Airdrie at its May 2 meeting.

These services provide residents who don’t own a car with an additional method for getting around, aside from traditional buses and taxis.

According to Kinley, any TNCs that do come into Airdrie will have to have a business licence and abide by rules implemented by the Province July 1. These include having a Class 1, 2, or 4 driver’s licence and undergoing a criminal record check through a police agency. Drivers must also provide proof of insurance coverage that specifically covers driving a TNC vehicle.

“They won’t have to follow anything else until somebody has figured this out better,” Kinley said. “We did make some proposed changes (to the Taxi Bylaw) but then what’s happened in Calgary with them completely doing a 180 on their bylaw…we said, ‘Let’s just wait so we’re not wasting time and money coming back to council with changes and changes.

“When we do the TNC changes, it will be part of the Taxi Bylaw.”

In an email to Airdrie City View, UBER Senior Communications Associate, Canada Jean-Christophe de Le Rue wrote, “the City of Airdrie has decided to avoid duplicate regulation and rely upon provincial ridesharing standards which would permit UBER’s operations.”

According to Kinley, it’s not that simple, nor is it a surprise. The rules in the current bylaw do not preclude TNCs from operating in Airdrie, nor are they anything new.

“We let UBER know (and) we let Ride Please from Calgary know that this report was going to council,” she said.

Kinley said staff held two open houses with the local taxi drivers in September.

“We’ve spoken to the brokers. We’ve spoken to the drivers. It’s a 50/50 with them – some want the rules put into place right now and they have to be the same as what taxi drivers have to follow and others are saying, ‘Why don’t we wait and see how this is going to impact us.’”

According to Kinley, the City is trying to find the best way to please all sides of the issue – the taxi drivers and brokers, the TNCs and residents.

“We’re trying to walk the line in the middle here,” she said. “There are no plans to bring (the inclusion of TNCs in the Taxi Bylaw) back to council. We’re going to monitor the situation. If we’re finding that we are impacted then we’ll be more than willing to go back to council and say, ‘OK, we have more information and we figure this is what we should do.’

“Nobody knows how it’s going to impact us. UBER drivers want the big-ticket charges. In Airdrie, even if you go from one side of the city to the other, it’s not a lot of money. If anything impacts the taxi drivers, (trips to the airport) would likely be it.”

There is currently a set fee of $35 taxi drivers are allowed to charge to take residents to the Calgary International Airport in the Taxi Bylaw.

Requests for comment from Alliance Cabs were not returned by press time.

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