CALGARY – Council members decided Monday to move forward on a plan that would allow the ride-sharing service Uber to operate legally within Calgary, as long as the company is able to prove it has obtained proper insurance.
Council pushed back a bylaw vote on the issue until February 22 to allow more time for discussion on details in the agreement.
The Taxi and Limousine Advisory Committee put forth a recommendation to council to adopt a new set of rules which would allow private for-hire vehicles to operate alongside taxis and limousines.
The committee is encouraging administration to adopt a so-called “hybrid open/controlled system,” which would maintain a limit on the number of taxi plates.
Under the system, taxi and limousine companies would be free to set their own rates, but only if they utilize a city-approved smartphone app that confirms driver and passenger identification, offers an estimated fare and allows the customer the option of rejecting the trip.
The proposal would also give taxis exclusive right to operate taxi stands, and prohibit private for-hire drivers from accepting street hails or rides through a dispatch system.
Council members voted in favor of the recommendations Monday but under conditions that the company take proper steps to ensure drivers are properly insured, have undergone police checks, hold proper Class 4 licences and that their vehicles have proper safety checks.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed concern about miscommunication regarding the ride-sharing service Monday afternoon, specifically surrounding insurance requirements.
“Nobody is allowed to drive without insurance. I am not allowed to do it, you are not allowed to do it, Uber is not allowed to do it,” Nenshi said. “Uber has known they have an insurance problem for many, many months. They are working on it, there is a product that is awaiting approval before the regulator now.”
Nenshi pointed out that Uber decided to go ahead and launch its service anyway.
“That is like a home builder building a bunch of houses and then asking you to retroactively change the fire code to say they are safe – that’s not the way it works.”
Although council has given the green light to the recommendation, it will likely be February before Uber has proper insurance in place and therefore if it continues to offer rides, officials say it is still operating illegally within the city.
On Friday, a judge will hear the city’s application for an injunction to stop Uber drivers from operating until new livery transport bylaws are passed.
A total of 57 drivers were named in the injunction application filed last week.
If the injunction is granted, those who continue to drive for Uber could be arrested and appear before a judge for being in contempt of a court order.