It’s been two years since Uber arrived in Saskatoon, and to mark the anniversary, the City of Saskatoon conducted another round of consultations.
City administration invited the taxi industry and transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber to “ensure as much parity as possible” between regulations around Uber and taxis.
On Monday, the report with 10 recommendations collected during consultations was presented to the city’s transportation committee, with the city recommending only one of the proposed changes: increasing the maximum vehicle age to 10 years from seven years for taxis to match the maximum age of TNC vehicles.
The other recommendations that came out during consultations aimed at putting more regulations on TNCs, including requiring drivers to obtain a license from the city, requiring TNCs to have in-car video camera, establish a cap on the number of TNCs allowed on the road at any given time and restrict surge-pricing for TNCs.
Kelly Frie, one of the owners of Riide, Saskatoon’s largest taxi company, told the committee “there can be no parity without price parity.”
Frie aired his frustrations with city officials after only recommending a change to the maximum vehicle age, rather than looking at how heavily the taxi industry is regulated, and trying to level the playing field with TNCs such as Uber.
“This process is extremely flawed if we’re looking to change max vehicle age,” Frie said. “We have increased costs to comply with regulations and yet again, those are not considered.”
Yanique Williams, public policy manager for Uber in Western Canada, told the committee many of the options stemming from the consultations would negatively impact Uber drivers, as many don’t offer ride-sharing as a fulltime job.
“Many of the options presented in this report would have harmful effects on the TNC industry in Saskatoon, like limiting the number of TNCs allowed on the road at a given time, it would lead to economic and social harm,” she said.
Councillor Randy Donauer told the committee he would like the city to reconsider its position as a regulator of the taxi industry and the TNCs.
“I sympathize with this industry that wants a level playing field, but I don't think the solution is hanging on to decades-old, generations-old regulations in the taxi industry,” he said. “I think the solution is to get out of the regulation of the taxi industry and be less involved.”
Councillor Hilary Gough moved the recommendation to increase the maximum age of vehicles for taxis. She also wanted the administration to look at option five in the report, which calls on TNCs to obtain a license from the municipality to be able to operate in the city. Gough and the committee voted in favour of having the city’s administration look at creating a licensing program for TNC operators such as Uber.