Tory calls uberHOP a 'marketplace response' to gaps in transit

Toronto Mayor John Tory says that a new ride-sharing service from Uber is a "marketplace response" to gaps in the TTC's service, and says it would be impractical for the city to shut down the company's operations.

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Starting Tuesday, Uber will be testing out uberHOP in Toronto. The company says the new service is aimed at helping move people between the downtown financial district and three popular destinations, for a flat rate of five dollars.

The pilot program is expected to run for a few weeks.

Users of the service will join up to five other commuters to share a ride into or out of the city's Financial District and meeting spots in other central areas: City Place, the Distillery District, Fort York and Liberty Village.

From 7 a.m. until 10 a.m. drivers will take passengers into the Financial District using larger vehicles and SUVs, capable of carrying up to six passengers. And from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., uberHOP will offer rides out of the district.

UberHOP will be free for the first week.

In his comments Monday, Tory said that Uber is filling a void left by inadequate TTC coverage across the city.

"This is a marketplace response to a reality, which is that there are places in the city that are not as well served by public transportation as they need to be … to get people around, relieve congestion and preserve the environment," he said.

Tory added that last year the city put $100 million toward improving transit services, including in Liberty Village.

"We're going to do more, and we're going to do more with our partners in the province, Tory promise.

Tory said City of Toronto lawyers are gathering evidence about Uber's business and its impact, but are not yet recommending a second attempt to seek an injunction that would shut it down.

Brad Ross, the head of corporate communications at the TTC said the commission plans to "review" uberHOP and how it could impact transit in the city.

The City of Toronto Act clearly says the TTC is responsible for all public transit, Ross said.

He added that 1.8 million people currently take the TTC every weekday.

Toronto is only the second city to test out the new program. The company also launched uberHOP in Seattle on Dec. 10.

According to a press release from the company, uberHOP's flat-fee averages out to be 40 per cent cheaper than the company's uberX option.

This isn't the first time Uber has chosen Toronto to experiment with new initiatives.

Last week, the company expanded UberEATS in the city, quadrupling the food delivery service's operating hours and launching a new stand-alone app.

However, Uber's expansion in the city has not gone on without protest.

Last Wednesday, local taxi drivers held a 12-hour protest calling for the city to crack down on the company.

The massive demonstration held up traffic on major routes, and led to the arrest of one driver.

A police officer was also injured when a cab struck his bike.

The taxi industry has tried to institute new measures to compete with Uber. On Nov. 1, the base cab fare dropped by one dollar from $4.25 to $3.25, and on Monday the taxi industry unveiled a new app called ‘The Ride.’

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Toronto



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