Uber Taxi, the infamous ride sharing service that has already been seen in various communities across Canada, has finally made its way into the Niagara Region.
In fact, if one checks the St Catharines Transit App, Uber can be seen depending on where you list your address as.
Despite the rise in ‘illegal taxi services” across the region like Speedy, the Niagara Regional Police have made it clear that Uber itself will be investigated, and if found guilty, will be criminally charged for their service.
According to Superintendent Scott McLean in a press release, Uber taxi is not in compliance with regional bylaws and if a citizen complains about the service, officers will investigate and enforce the law as they see fit.
Further, McLean stated that if an Uber operator accepts a customer and receives payment, they will be in violation of the region’s bylaw, and therefor open to due process.
“If a company wants to transport people they need to be licensed,” said Vaughn Stewart, a current member of the Niagara Regional Police licensing committee, the same day Uber announced its arrival to the region.
“According to our bylaw, they would be in contravention,” said Stewart, raising concern over Uber taxis.
“We have been pleased with the progress that we have seen across the province as communities have embraced ride sharing,” stated Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath. “The Region of Waterloo is currently consulting on a new bylaw they have drafted that seeks to embrace ride sharing; the City of Ottawa will be reporting back on their study of ride sharing in December; and both the City of London and the City of Toronto recently voted in favor of studying ride sharing with the intent of creating a new regulatory framework.”
When asked about the Niagara Region’s statement regarding Uber taxi, Heath remarked that, “As we saw from the recent Ontario court ruling, Uber is a new business model that is distinct from taxi”.
Heath also stated that, “Modernizing regulations to encourage innovation, put people first and create safe, reliable and affordable transportation options.”
Hanif Pafni, president and CEO of Coventry Connections Inc., a local transportation service for Niagara, commented on his concerns with Uber, touching on what makes an illegal “taxi” service so problematic.
“We are not opposed to competition or technology, but we all live by the law,” said Pafni, adding that the taxi industry has often been tightly-regulated by the law.”
“The rules were established for safety, for protecting consumers on pricing, and for leaving the taxi industry in a viable operating mode, because if you have too many taxi cabs then none of them make any money.”
According to Pafni, another huge problem with Uber is that it has failed to address local police directly in their concerns.
“What we have is a company like Coventry that has invested over $11 million in Niagara to change the taxi services in the region and then you have this foreign-based, off-shore registered company that creates a shell in Canada called Uber, with all the funds being directed off-shore. Uber taxi also does not comply with even basic protocol like sending a list of their drivers to the police or pricing a ride at whatever they want,” said Pafni.
According to Pafni, by refusing to follow the rules and setting their own agenda at the exclusion of local authorities, Uber is, “Cherry picking the jobs that are easy to do with their app. When a driver can operate their car with only $800 worth of insurance as opposed to $8,000, which is what we pay for a taxi cab, you know that something is wrong in terms of coverage.”