I voted to approve a hybrid open/controlled entry framework to allow Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), like Uber, to operate in Calgary. This system would permit both taxis and private-for-hire vehicles to charge their own rates, as long as trips are booked through an app. Taxi companies and TNCs like Uber would be permitted to set their own rates if the trip is prearranged on a smart phone app where the consumer is provided with a trip cost estimate and can confirm or reject the trip in advance. Taxis that pick up fares through street hails, taxi stands, and dispatch must charge the regulated rate.
Council directed City Administration to prepare a bylaw change that will be presented to Council no later than February 22, 2016. Originally, new rules were expected to come in December. Why the wait? Uber and Calgary taxi companies requested an extension on bylaw discussions to ensure that they would be able to provide feedback on the details of the bylaw. The details of the bylaw are important and getting it right is imperative to achieving a safe, reliable customer-focused transportation solution for Calgarians. Presently, the private insurance industry is unable to provide the Provincial Government and satisfy Uber with an insurance product that will cover TNCs. Currently, a Class 4 Drivers License and commercial insurance coverage, which is significantly more expensive than personal vehicle insurance, is required to operate vehicles for commercial purposes. This requirement does not align with Uber’s business model. The Alberta Government’s cross-ministry committee and Uber are working with insurance companies on specific TNC coverage. Uber’s early launch was surprising since the expected requirements are anticipated to be ready in the next couple of months.
Although Uber would like to operate in a regulated environment, Uber acknowledges they have no plans to stop operations and are operating illegally. Until such time as the City crafts new rules that will allow TNCs like Uber to offer private for-hire vehicle services legally and safely, the current Livery Transport Bylaw is still in effect. It comes down to public safety.
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