Uber ride-sharing service on hold in Winnipeg
Published Tuesday, February 9, 2016 8:49PM CST Last Updated Tuesday, February 9, 2016 9:12PM CST
The possibility of the ride-sharing company Uber driving into Winnipeg is on hold.
Despite rumblings, rumours – and even some Winnipeggers signing up to be drivers – it's not clear when, or if, Uber will be allowed to operate in the city.
A local Facebook page, Bring Uber to Winnipeg, has 600 members. Recently, an Instagram account that popped up on social media stated Uber will start operating in Winnipeg in May.
But the company says the post is not legitimate.
“I can tell you that is not an official account,” said Uber spokesperson Susie Heath.
Winnipeg carpenter Robert Chubaty signed up to work as an Uber driver this fall. Uber accepted his application, but Chubaty hasn't heard back since.
"I figured it was a good way to make extra money on my downtime, then I found it was illegal," said Chubaty from his home in Riverbend. "So I’m just sitting around waiting."
Uber promises affordable travel from people willing to share a ride. All trips are booked with the use of a smartphone App.
Uber is already active in Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary – cities with municipal government oversight of taxi licences.
In Edmonton, city council recently passed a bylaw creating a special ride-sharing licence. The bylaw includes the creation of two licences -- one for ride-sharing companies like Uber, the other for taxis.
Winnipeg researcher Scott Price said allowing Uber into Winnipeg will deregulate the taxicab industry.
"Because there's less regulations, there are big safety issues with drivers and passengers,” he said.
If Uber is allowed to make a go, it rests with the Taxicab Board of Manitoba.
Chair David Sanders said he's prepared to consider changes, but right now Uber doesn't meet Winnipeg regulations.
"You've got private citizens driving private vehicles, which are not insured as taxis, without training, without inspections,” he said.
In the meantime, a comprehensive review of the taxicab industry is underway, including ride-sharing services like Uber.
Sanders said public consultations for the review of the taxicab industry will begin at the end of April, after the provincial election. The full report is expected by the end of the summer.
Chubaty said Uber does offer some checks and balances to customers; drivers must provide proof of licence and registration, and have a GPS that determines the best route.
He said if Uber was allowed to operate, "taxicabs would have to step up their game, or reduce fares, and give people a choice."
Uber expanding in Canada
Uber sent CTV a statement on Monday regarding its expansion in Canada.
"We don't have specific launch plans for Winnipeg at the moment," said Uber spokesperson Susie Heath.
"I can tell you that Uber aims to expand to communities across Canada and we're always looking at what's next. We will continue to work collaboratively with officials at all levels of government as part of our ongoing process to continue to explore expansion in a number of cities across Canada."
City officials weigh in
As for how the city feels about Uber’s possible presence in Winnipeg, the mayor’s office said the hope is a balanced outcome for all.
“The mayor simply wants to see a decision that works best for the citizens of Winnipeg, the local taxicab industry and Uber,” said Jeremy Davis with the mayor’s office.
“Mayor Bowman supports innovative alternatives and crowd-sourced options that benefit citizens and that work for everyone,” he said.
Davis added that the decision to make amendments to the Manitoba Taxicab Act, along with any decision regarding Uber, lies with the Manitoba Taxicab Board.
Coun. Ross Eadie, a member of the taxicab board, wrote a statement to CTV News:
“I am opposed to Uber under its current model of service delivery…Uber gets the gravy trips while people who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their taxi cab license parish.
Winnipeg’s taxi industry regulation developed to what it is through years of experience. We have various safety features in our taxis for good reason.”