Regina taxi industry prepares to fight newly proposed ride-sharing regulations.
City hall has opted to go easy on ride-share companies with a proposed licensing system that includes neither vehicle caps, nor mandatory cameras, nor minimum fares.
The recommendations will come to the council’s executive committee on Wednesday. or the most part, the City of Regina administration found SGI’s existing regulatory framework sufficient to ensure passenger safety. Uber Canada and Lyft both said they were “excited” about the prospect of bringing ride-sharing to Regina, but local taxi company managers called the regulations “minor” and warned of safety risks. In its report, the administration provided no estimate for when ride-sharing could come to Regina. But it noted that three companies — including Uber and Lyft — have expressed interest in operating in the city. Executive committee could choose to strengthen the regulations, leave them as is or ban ride-sharing altogether. Whatever it decides will then go to a full meeting of council on Jan. 28, with a bylaw scheduled to come back at the end of February. Only then could ride-sharing become a reality in Regina.
The report proposes a licensing system for ride-sharing companies as a whole, but not for individual drivers. Fees could vary from $2,500 to $25,000, depending on the number of cars. The model would require pre-booking, cashless payments, and GPS tracking — practices already common in the ride-sharing industry.
The proposed regulations appear to relax than those adopted by Saskatoon last month. While Saskatoon city council imposed a minimum fare of $3.75, the system pitched for Regina would include no minimum fare.
“The Administration has not recommended a minimum as we see no benefit to customers,” said the administration report.
On Dec. 6, SGI passed regulations for ride-sharing companies across Saskatchewan, opening the door for municipalities to allow the services in their communities. Drivers would need to hold a standard license and have two years of driving experience.
Those with disqualifications over the past 10 years or too many demerit points will be barred. Criminal record checks and vehicle inspections must be submitted to SGI every year for each driver and vehicle.
Administration’s recommended model goes further than the SGI regulations in just a few areas. Drivers would have to abide by conduct requirements and vehicle cleanliness standards, though exactly what that means is not spelled out in detail.
There would be no requirement for cameras and no limit on the age of vehicles.
Ride-sharing companies would be required to provide information to customers as they book a ride, including driver name, total cost and arrival time. Some trip data would be shared with the city.
The recommendations were developed following two surveys — which showed widespread public support for ride-sharing — and consultations with the taxi industry.
Sandy Archibald, manager of Regina Cabs, said she’s disappointed with the result. She warned of “unintended consequences,” suggesting that the proposed regulations could lead to falling standards across the board.
“There are many things that haven’t been addressed,” Archibald said. “When we had meetings with the city we were much more hopeful about how this was going to roll out. It’s really been shaved down to just a few minor regulations.”
In Archibald’s view, SGI made a mistake by failing to require a class 4 commercial driver’s license for taxi and ride-share drivers. She thinks the city risks repeating the error.
“It requires a medical examination, which is important, and it requires a written and driving test,” she said. “So there’s some basic oversight as who’s going to be driving the public.
“That’s an important safety issue that the city should be concerned about,” she said.
Glen Sali, owner, and manager of Capital Cabs said safety is also his primary concern. He said police have accessed cameras from his vehicles on several occasions to aid their investigations. He doesn’t understand why ride-sharing shouldn’t be subject to the same requirement.
“I think, in the taxi industry, that cameras have really helped, both for you as a customer and me as a driver,” he said.
“I think the public would feel more secure if they had cameras in every vehicle.”
Both Archibald and Sali said they will address councilors when the proposal comes up for debate. Archibald said the industry is now “shackled” by city bylaws, which imposes regulations she views as burdensome. Some of those restrictions wouldn’t apply to ride-sharing under the proposed regulations.
The city’s Taxi Bylaw currently requires in-vehicle cameras and limits the number of taxi licenses for Regina to 120, plus seasonal licenses.
“You can’t have a level playing field if there’s an unlimited amount of ride-share and a limited amount of taxis,” Archibald said.
Uber Canada and Lyft both said they were pleased with the proposed regulations. Uber Canada’s public policy manager, Jean-Christophe de Le Rue, said the city is following the province’s lead on “strict criminal background checks, driver history checks, and vehicle inspections.”
“Uber is excited about the potential to bring ridesharing to Regina,” wrote de Le Rue. “Staff’s report to introduce ridesharing builds upon the good work completed by the provincial government and best practice across Canada.
“Having more options, like ridesharing, can help reduce impaired driving. We agree with the vast majority of Regina residents who want ridesharing to be part of the solution.”
Lyft issued a similar statement.
“We are excited about the recent regulations passed by the Government of Saskatchewan and the proposal introduced by the City of Regina,” said an email conveyed by Fatima Reyes, Communications Manager for the company’s Canadian operations.
“While we can’t share specific launch details at the moment, we look forward to bringing Lyft to the people of Saskatchewan as soon as possible.”