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What’s the Deal with Ride Sharing?

By Ali Bryan

Ride sharing has rolled onto Alberta roads—and it’s likely here to stay. In a recent poll conducted by AMA, nearly 70 percent of members surveyed said they were familiar with ride-sharing companies like Uber, TappCar and Lyft.

A ride-sharing service, or transportation network company (TNC), connects drivers and passengers through a mobile app for transport in a driver’s personal vehicle. Unlike taxis, ride-sharing cars can’t currently be hailed. AMA members surveyed who’ve used the services say cost and convenience are key factors for using them over taxis.

Such services are welcome arrivals for Albertans seeking more transportation options that are safe, reliable and affordable. But with new provincial regulations, insurance changes and amended bylaws in both Calgary and Edmonton, ride sharing is changing the landscape.

As the industry pioneer, Uber took to the streets of San Francisco in 2011 with its app and it hasn’t slowed down since. The company now operates in more than 500 cities worldwide, including Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

Unlike taxi drivers, for whom driving is a career, Uber drivers tend to be part-timers who set their own hours, logging a weekly average of 10 hours behind the wheel.

Edmonton’s TappCar falls somewhere in the middle between Uber and taxis: It uses ride-sharing app technology, but while Uber drivers use their own vehicles, TappCar requires its drivers to be commercially licensed and insured, similar to taxis.

Since TNCs cruised onto the provincial scene last year, response has been mixed: Some residents cheered, taxi drivers jeered and local lawmakers persevered to pass regulations. The majority of AMA members surveyed support insurance requirements, driver training and special licenses for ride-sharing operators.

For lawmakers, the goal of regulation has been to clarify the license and insurance requirements for ride-share companies, while establishing legal definitions, scope of practice and safety standards. Both Calgary and Edmonton have amended their bylaws accordingly.

In Calgary, the bulk of financial responsibility falls on individual drivers, versus the ride-sharing company. For example, TNC drivers in Calgary are required to pay an annual licensing fee, obtain a Calgary Police Services criminal-record check and complete an annual vehicle inspection. Whereas the company itself pays just a small annual license fee to operate in the city.

On the flip side, Edmonton’s Vehicle for Hire bylaw compels the ride-share company to pay a $50,000 annual fee, an extra $0.06 per trip (to cover regulatory and enforcement costs) and another $20,000 yearly fee toward accessible transportation development. Annual car inspections and criminal checks are still required, but are to be paid by the company, not the driver.

While there are still some issues yet to be addressed, such as privacy concerns, AMA is pleased that such regulations are paving the way for taxis and TNCs to coexist on our roads—while also giving Albertans more and safer choices in getting from point A to B.

Car-sharing companies like car2go and Pogo offer the convenience of vehicle ownership without car payments, parking fees, fuel or maintenance costs. Registered users select a vehicle within a set zone, drive it for as long (or as little) as needed and return it anywhere within the zone.

In Calgary, car2go users pay a one-time $35 fee, plus the time they use the vehicle: 41 cents/minute, $15/hour or $85/day.

Edmonton’s Pogo also requires a one-time $35 application fee, with driving rates of 47 cents/minute, $15/hour and $70/day.