It was a sad day for taxi operators in Edmonton Wednesday after city councilors voted to legalize Uber.
Come March 1, Uber will be allowed to legally operate in the city as long as the firm’s drivers obtain a legal commercial insurance approved by the province of Alberta. This makes Edmonton the first Canadian city to ever allow the ride-hailing service to operate in its jurisdiction.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the city council’s decision will bring about “a new normal” and “will include flexible supply and flexible pricing” of transportation in the municipality.
On social media Uber Edmonton tweeted:
— Uber Edmonton (@Uber_Edmonton) January 27, 2016
“This is a win for both riders and drivers in Edmonton,” Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, said in an interview with CBC. “Although we have made some concessions in the bylaw, this is a workable framework.”
Under the bylaw, the company will have to pay $70,000 a year to operate in the city.
Uber made the commitment to cease operations when the bylaw takes effect March 1. Operations will not resume until the service’s drivers obtain the proper insurance coverage.
The bylaw also deregulates fares for Uber and so-called private transportation providers (PTP) but agreed to fix the minimum price of $3.25 per trip offered by Uber and PTPs that want to operate in Edmonton.
The president of Yellow Cab, Phil Strong, said the taxi industry can work with the by law as long as Uber doesn’t engage in predatory pricing in order to push cab operators out of business
Iveson said the city will closely monitor the situation to make sure there is no “predatory behavior or gauging occurring” with respect to fare prices.
“We’ll monitor this very closely and in six months’ time, if there’s predatory behaviour or gouging occurring, then council certainly reserves the right to strengthen the minimums and maximums,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
The council chamber was packed with taxi drivers on Wednesday. The drivers remained silent and allowed the council to do their work. Many of the drivers left before the council voted on the second and final reading of the bylaw.
The atmosphere was very different from the day before when anti-Uber drivers interrupted the council meeting by chanting “shame, shame, shame.”
Wednesday decision will impact some 1,108 men and women in Edmonton who purchased taxi plates in order to operate in the city. As much as 84 per cent of the city’s 1,319 plates belong to individual drivers.
Many of the plate owners are immigrants. Many of them paid anywhere from $50,000 to $220,000 for their plates.