Calgary’s updated taxi bylaw would introduce training fees for ride-share drivers

For the first time, new driver training requirements will apply to ride-share drivers, and new fees for the training would take effect in 2022

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Calgary is close to finishing an overhaul of rules and fees for taxi and ride-share services since the 2016 arrival of Uber.

After past calls to “level the playing field” between the taxi and ride-sharing industry, a city council committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to proposed changes to the city’s livery transport bylaw, which applies to taxis, limousines and transport network companies (TNCs) — the city’s term for ride-sharing.

Final approval of the new bylaw has yet to be decided at a future council meeting. But for the first time, new driver training requirements will apply to ride-share drivers, and new fees for the training would take effect in 2022.

Other fees, including charges for taxi and limo drivers to apply for or renew their plates are being reduced.

Taxi and limo driver licence fees are currently waived and plate fees were cut by 50 per cent, as part of a COVID relief package council agreed on last year. The committee heard that additional financial help is in the works as the pandemic still isn’t over.

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Checker Cabs president Kurt Enders told the committee that support is still crucial.

Taxis, like public transit, saw a sharp decline in customers due to the pandemic.

“It has now been one year since COVID has hit our industry extremely hard, and I’m not sure when or if we’ll ever recover,” he said.

He said the new livery bylaw still reflects an “imbalance” in the way taxis are regulated compared to ride-sharing, but he said he felt progress had been made.

Enders added he wanted to see taxi fees further streamlined to be more in line with what ride-sharing companies pay.

“At the end of the day, we pick up customers, we take them to their destination and collect a fee for that service.”

Kim Formella, Checker Cabs co-owner, poses with the plexiglass shield the company is installing in their cabs to protect the drivers from COVID-19 on Monday, April 13, 2020.
Kim Formella, Checker Cabs co-owner, poses with the plexiglass shield the company is installing in their cabs to protect the drivers from COVID-19 on Monday, April 13, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

According to city staff, there were about 1,800 taxi licences in Calgary as of the end of 2020, and 3,900 TNC licences. But people with those licences often don’t do ride-sharing work full-time, so the number doesn’t represent the number of cars constantly on the road.

Yanique Williams, Uber’s public policy manager for Canada, said the company doesn’t want to see added training fees.

The city is proposing a $95 fee for online training, or $310 for in-person classes for drivers hoping to get a TNC licence — the same as what taxi and limo drivers would pay. It already costs $229 to apply for a TNC licence, and under the new rules that’s set to drop to $219.

“Even minor hurdles like introducing a fee for required training can make work less accessible for Calgarians,” Williams said.

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She maintained that ride-sharing and taxis are different, and “rules tailored to the modern ride-sharing industry” would be more appropriate than imposing similar rules as taxis.

Coun. Evan Woolley said transportation options have seen massive changes over the past decade, and he’s happy with the current path forward. He said in the past, it was clear that the number of taxis in Calgary wasn’t adequate to serve the growing population.

“I think we’ve come a long way and this brand new bylaw reflects that,” he said. “This has been one of the toughest files that we’ve seen at the city.”

Coun. George Chahal said his support for the bylaw would be contingent on seeing the COVID relief package for drivers in Calgary.

“I’ve been the advocate, and I will continue to be, of the drivers, to make sure that they have the ability to provide for their families,” he said.

“And that’s the drivers in the taxi industry who have been doing it for years, and the new drivers on the TNC side who are trying to support their families as well.”

masmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @meksmith


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