- Category: Tech & Science
- Published Wednesday, December 16, 2015
- CTV News
Uber had a bumpy ride in 2015, but the company’s Toronto manager tells CTV News Channel it is working with cities to make sure the next year goes more smoothly for the company, which he said now has “over a half-million” regular Canadian users.
The company has courted has controversy with uberX, a wildly popular service that allows anyone with a late-model vehicle, smartphone and a background check to offer rides through its smartphone app, often for less money than standard taxi fares.
That has led to protests in Montreal,Toronto and other cities across Canada, in which cab drivers snarled traffic in an attempt to force city officials to do more to stop the Uber drivers they say flout regulations and eat into their business.
Cities far and wide have debated by-law changes, but that hasn’t stopped the protests. In Edmonton, a council meeting discussing possible regulations to legalize the service got so out of hand that councillors briefly left their chambers.
The company ended the year with another potential foe. On Monday, it launched uberHOP in Toronto, which picks up multiple passengers at popular locations and drives them to other popular spots for a flat fee of $5.
That has the Toronto Transit Commission promising a legal “review.”
Ian Black, General Manager of Uber Toronto, spoke to CTV News Channel on Wednesday about some of that controversy, in particular why the company won’t just wait for generally-supportive city councillors and mayors to adapt their taxi bylaws to the new service.
Black responded that “ride-sharing is a very different business model and very different regulatory consideration than the taxi industry.”
“Most cities around the world who have regulated this, and there are about 60 … have chosen to create new regulatory framework,” he said.
“And that's what was suggested by Toronto city staff. It's also been suggested by the City of Edmonton, the City of Calgary, so really Canadian cities around the country are looking for new regulatory frameworks."
Black also pointed to the service’s apparent benefits, which make it hard for politicians to ignore.
First of all, he said the service has created “over 20,000 jobs.”
It isn’t clear how many of those jobs are part-time, however. Black said most of the drivers using their own vehicles are only doing so about 10 hours per week.
Another benefit, according to Black, is that the service can reduce congestion. For example, uberHOP, “helps take people who are already driving their cars or taking uberX or taxi and puts them together in one car.”
It’s not yet apparent how many fit that description, however. UberHOP’s initial routes are all along the city’s busiest streetcar line, and some potential users told CTV Toronto they saw it as an alternative to the overcrowded TTC.
Black was also asked about accusations that uberX drivers and passengers are not properly covered by insurance.
Black said that “every uberX ride is insured.” At the same time, he said they have “announced a partnership with Intact Insurance” –not yet in place – “to create even more and new policies for the ride-sharing industry,” that will “increase the safety of the platform.”
Either way, Black suggested that city officials support cracking down on Uber drivers will need to contend with a small army of loyal users.
"There's over a half a million Canadians now who rely on Uber on a regular basis for their ride,” Black said. “I think the vast majority of people who use our service … really see the innovations that we're bringing as a good thing.”