Taxi Union ‘Spitting Mad’ Over City’s Plan to Legalize Uber
The next two weeks will test the mettle of this city and its cabbies after a dramatic plan to reshape the regulatory system was unveiled Thursday, including a roadmap to legalize Uber.
There’s huge money at play.
Hanif Patni, president of Coventry Connections, the city’s largest taxi company, said Thursday there’s room for both cabs and Uber cars in Ottawa, “as long as the rules were appropriate.”
Patni said he understands why cabbies are “livid” after the city announced that it wants rules allowing Uber to operate legally in Ottawa.
Amrik Singh, the outspoken president of the local taxi union, stormed out of the council chambers swearing and spitting mad after the announcement.
That didn’t sit well with Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, chair of the committee that oversees taxi regulations. She lauded city staff for striking a balance with the proposed rules.
“I think it would have been helpful if Mr. Singh had actually waited to read the report before he commented because he said there was nothing in it for taxi drivers,” Deans said after a briefing of the proposed regulations.
“Of course, there’s a lot in it for the taxi industry, and I think in some ways they’re a little surprised at how we’ve taken the handcuffs off the industry.”
Outside the council chambers, Singh appeared furious.
“This is not fair what’s happening here and we will not tolerate it,” Singh said.
Singh said the city is proposing a dual system for traditional taxis and “private transportation companies,” such as Uber. “I promise you, we will be back,” he said before leaving City Hall.
To help cabbies, the city wants to lower the standard driver licence fee from $170 to $96, end the accessible driver licence fee, scrap the requirement to have taxi driver training (while keeping an accessible taxi course), increase the maximum vehicle age to 10 years and stop requiring certain makes and models for in-vehicle cameras.
Uber and other private transportation companies, or PTCs, could legally enter the regulated ride market by paying an annual flat licence fee to the city, plus 10.5 cents per ride. The licence fee is based on the fleet size and a company like Uber would pay $7,253 this year. PTCs wouldn’t be required to have in-vehicle cameras.
Cabbies and drivers for PTCs would need to have at least $5 million in commercial general liability insurance and motor vehicle liability.
Cabbies and Uber drivers would both require statements of driving records and police record checks to serve the vulnerable sector, but cabbies would only need to produce checks every three years. PTC drivers would require annual background checks.
PTCs would be banned from picking up passengers who flag down rides, and they wouldn’t be able to use taxi stands or taxi lanes.
Only cabbies would be allowed to take cash payments.
The city doesn’t want to regulate Uber’s surge pricing, where prices jump with increased demand.
The city is also trying to give the taxi industry a boost by warning people it’s “buyer beware” when using Uber and other PTCs, even though the city is satisfied with the safety requirements it’s proposing for non-taxi services.
There’s also a quick-win proposed for taxi customers: The city wants to end the $1.50 fee for cabs to process credit and debit card transactions.
In an emailed statement, Uber spokeswoman Susie Heath said the company “commends” the city for its work and will have more to say after reviewing the report.