Uber Gets Approval Despite Taxi Driver Push Back

Uber can now operate legally in the City of Windsor.

After a lengthy and heated debate Monday night, council has approved a motion putting a number of regulations on the ride sharing company including vulnerable sector police record checks for drivers, vehicles cannot be older than 10 years and must be regularly inspected and drivers must carry a minimum liability insurance of $2-million.

Dozens of local cab drivers were at the meeting, all saying these regulations are not enough.

Unifor Local 195 represents many of the cab drivers and First Vice President John Toth says they have to follow far more stringent rules and Uber drivers should have to do the same.

Toth says it'll be hard to compete.

"We're disappointed, obviously, that council didn't listen to our proposals and it will create an unlevel playing field. It will create a two tier system. It's not a competitive system because two different entities are servicing the same market at an uncompetitive disadvantage as they don't apply to the same rules."

But Uber Canada representative Chris Schafer says Windsor adopted very similar bylaws to what many other cities across Canada and the world have.

He says 75% of local residents surveyed said they enjoy using Uber and want it to stay.

"They've recognized the voices by citizens that have expressed to them in writing, via phone calls that they want choice in terms of transportation options in the City of Windsor. They want the choice to take public transit, to take taxi, but also to take ride sharing and Uber."

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Dozens of taxi drivers packed council chambers for a discussion on Uber regulations (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

Toth says another major sticking point is Uber is allowed unlimited drivers while taxis are capped at 211 certified license plates.

"Now, what we're seeing happen here, with the advent of Uber, is that they're flooding the market with vehicles and we've always said there's not any more rides being demanded today as there was two years ago when Uber wasn't here. So what you've done, by introducing twice as many drivers, is you've just cut the income in half for all the people that work in the industry."

Schafer says Windsor is just joining the ranks of several other major cities.

"It ensures that ride sharing has a place in Windsor going forward. Bylaws are pretty uniformly consistent across Ontario. Ottawa was the first city to pass a bylaw followed by Toronto, Niagara Region, Waterloo Region, Hamilton, London, Oakville have passed bylaws that are more or less consistent on the main issues."

To wrap up the meeting, in a close 6-4 vote, council voted to not make Uber drivers install cameras, but to have city administration bring back a report in one year regarding any public safety concerns which may have occurred.

Cameras are required in city taxi cabs.

Toth says with no cameras in Uber cars public safety will be at risk.

"Some people are of the misunderstanding that the camera is in place solely to protect the driver. It's to protect the driver and the passenger, but it's also a major crime fighting tool. That camera is called upon time and time again by the city police department. It's helped solved some major crimes in this city including murders."

Schafer says with the Uber app both driver and passenger identities are recorded, there's GPS tracking and no cash is exchanged during the ride.

"We've heard both sides of the debate. They recognize that Uber has a host of features built into the app that contribute to public safety in ways a taxi cannot and that no jurisdiction in the world, including no city that's regulated ride sharing to date in Canada, has required a camera."

Uber has been in Windsor since November 2015 and without a bylaw in place until now, has been operating illegally.

In his closing remarks, Mayor Drew Dilkens said, "Uber is here whether we like it or not and we need to create a framework to regulate it".