After officially launching in Edmonton March 14, ride-sharing app TappCar expanded to several other Capital Region municipalities Wednesday.
On March 29, TappCar announced it also received a licence to operate in the city of St. Albert. Applications were also made to other regional communities.
“Since our launch on March 14, we have received a lot of messages of support from potential customers who live in the Capital Region, but outside of Edmonton,” TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel said. “Due to this popular demand we have decided to speed up our expansion to St. Albert and other communities.”
Ryffel said St. Albert is currently reviewing its vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
On March 30, TappCar said it received the green light to operate in Spruce Grove and Fort Saskatchewan.
“We will be monitoring demand in both communities and may have vehicles dedicated specifically to serve the residents, both for local transportation and for travel to and from Edmonton,” Ryffel said.
Edmonton already made history earlier this year when it became the first Canadian city to legislate ride sharing. That decision appears to be attracting more vehicle-for-hire companies.
On Monday, March 14, TappCar — a company founded in Edmonton — officially launched service in the city.
“We’ve definitely had a few thousand people already download our app,” Ryffel said. “The response has been great. As you might know, we had a soft launch over the weekend and the response has been incredible. We’re very excited.”
Ryffel said TappCar has a fleet of close to 200 vehicles operating in Edmonton. He estimated about one-third of the drivers are former taxi drivers, one-third are former Uber drivers, and the remaining third worked as drivers up north and have come down to Edmonton to find work.
The inaugural TappCar passenger on March 14 was Edmonton City Councillor Dave Loken.
“We’ve heard a lot of complaints from both sides of the industry,” Ryffel said, “in the sense that people haven’t really been satisfied with the traditional taxi model just in terms of the level of service they’ve received, customer service, perhaps the quality of the cars. From the ride-sharing side, we’ve heard a lot of complaints that people just don’t feel safe because there’s not the proper insurance.
“We fill a niche because we fall right in the middle. We address all those concerns.”
While city council passed a new vehicle-for-hire bylaw at the end of January, one of the requirements was that drivers have adequate commercial insurance approved by the province.
At the end of February, the province said it would require drivers to have a Class 4 licence, police check and commercial insurance — which would be in place by July 1.
Shortly after the province’s announcement, Uber said it would have to temporarily suspend its operations in Edmonton.
“With no action by the NDP government on ridesharing, the province has cost thousands of Edmonton families a source of income by forcing Uber to suspend operations in the city,” Ramit Kar, Uber’s general manager for Alberta, said. “Uber will respect the government’s decisions, and a temporary suspension will take effect at 6 a.m. on March 1.”
“Following an investigation by Alberta’s superintendent of insurance, Uber drivers were found to not have adequate insurance,” Transportation Minister Brian Mason said.
TappCar, however, stressed its drivers have always been covered by commercial insurance.
“We feel honoured to be the first commercial private transportation provider in the City of Edmonton that is operating legally,” Ryffel said. “As a local company, we know Edmontonians expect businesses to operate within the rules, so that is exactly what we will be doing.”
Ryffel said all TappCar drivers will also have a Class 4 drivers licence (or better) as stipulated by provincial regulation.
In response to the province’s announcement, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson stressed the bylaw wasn’t meant to favour one company over another. Rather, Iveson said, it was to ensure the industry was safe while providing opportunity for new innovation.
“The purpose of this bylaw wasn’t to cater to any one company,” Iveson said Feb. 29. “It was to open up opportunities for innovation and competition in the vehicle-for-hire space. I’m actually glad to see other entrants and other products … into the market.”
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 4 and was updated on March 14, March 29 and March 30.