WINNIPEG -- The ridesharing app Uber is finally available in Winnipeg.

The app officially launched on Tuesday at 11 a.m. after months of speculation. It’s already available in more than 700 cities across the world, with Winnipeg being the latest.

“Winnipeggers now have an affordable option to help get where they need to go, when they need to,” said Michael van Hemmen, head of city operations in Canada for Uber, in a news release.

“And for those with a safe driving record, a flexible opportunity to earn money on their own time.”

Mayor Brian Bowman noted he’s been advocating for the ridesharing service since 2017.

“Today's announcement of Uber's launch builds on the existing service providers that have established themselves in Winnipeg,” the mayor said.

“As of today, Winnipeggers will now have Uber as an internationally recognized brand to choose from, and when tourism and travel return to normal, visitors will have even more choice for ride-sharing when they arrive."

Winnipeg already has TappCar, ReRyde, MY CAB app, and Hire PTP for ridesharing options.

CTV Winnipeg reported last month tens of thousands of Winnipeggers have already signed up to ride.

The company held a launch event at Winnipeg City Hall on Tuesday morning, where the city’s first ride took place.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Uber has taken steps to keep customers safe, such as mandatory masks and face coverings.

“We know that every time a rider opens their Uber app, they are putting their trust in our technology - not just to request a driver, but also for tools if emergencies arise. Our platform was built with safety in mind,” said van Hemmen.

“And now as we navigate the new normal together, we have enhanced policies and features for riders and drivers to help stop the spread of COVID-19.”

While Uber was outside city hall celebrating it’s Winnipeg debut, taxi companies were inside at the Infrastructure, Renewal, and Public Works meeting asking for financial relief.

Both Duffy’s Taxi and Unicity Taxi said COVID-19 has hit them hard.

“Our business went down – around 60 to 80 – percent,” said Ram Valluru, General Manager of Duffy’s Taxi.

Cab companies are asking the city to provide a 50 percent rebate to individual taxi drivers on their per-trip fee, from now until the pandemic has subsided.

Currently, taxi drivers pay the City of Winnipeg an 18 cent fee per trip.

“A majority of the federal government subsidy programs, these drivers (don’t) qualify,” said Valluru.

Uber will be another challenge, but they were expecting it.

Valluru said taxi companies welcome the competition - if there’s equal opportunity.

“We are providing a similar kind of service, we expect a similar kind of playing field.

“In terms of safety, in terms of fees, or MPI insurance.”

Under the current structure, Uber drivers pay about a quarter of what taxi drivers do for MPI insurance. 

- With files from CTV’s Devon McKendrick.