A survey on taxi services released by the Halifax Regional Municipality last week has some in the industry worried that regulations could soon be changing to support the expansion of Uber into the region.
Crissy McDow, owner of Lady Drive Her care service, has been pushing the municipality to do a study on the topic and is happy to see questions about female representation on the survey, but there’s one question that has her a little worried.
“I’m more concerned right now about the final question: would you like to see Uber or Lyft here. Well, Uber and Lyft are not welcome here, and I can speak on behalf of the taxis and limousines in this city. We have enough to take care of the demand.” McDow said.
The five-minute, eleven question survey asks how frequently people use taxi services, as well satisfaction over the safety and reliability of taxi and limousine services.
Municipal spokesperson Erin DiCarlo says that the survey is one part of a larger study about the state of the industry. A report is expected to come before council in the coming months.
“The purpose of the survey, really, is to kind of identify what the priorities are, get a sense of what people want and it is really only one element of the larger report but certainly it’s helpful for kind of identifying priorities and informing future decisions,” she said.
Under current regulations, Uber could operate in Halifax as a dispatcher, like Casino or Yellow, but they would have to employ people with taxi owner licenses.
These owner licenses, which are different than personal cab licenses, are tied to a vehicle and required for any cab in the municipality, but the wait list to get one is hundreds of names long.
For a company like Uber to operate in the municipality with a ride-share model, the municipality’s regulations would need to change.
Depending on how the public responds to the survey, that could become a distinct possibility.
Halifax’s taxi laws are long overdue for an update. DiCarlo says that they haven`t been changed since 1994.
The president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association, Dave Buffett, said that he is happy about the survey being circulated.
“As an industry we’re actually encouraged and quite excited about the taxi survey because really, our goal is to provide the best service we can and getting direct input from citizens, especially anonymous,” he said, “it might help us to improve service.”
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Buffett added that while he doesn’t support Uber potentially coming to town, the service quality of Halifax taxis will be key in helping taxis survive the looming threat of cheaper ride-share apps.
“We’re not at all in favour of Uber,” he said.
“The biggest draw for Uber is not price, it’s availability, and we generally provide really good service most of the time,” Buffett added. “Of course there are exceptions, but we think that’s what’s keeping Uber at bay.”
According to Uber, from January to the end of August 2018 the Uber app has been opened by 38,000 unique users in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“Uber is now available in more than 40 Canadian municipalities,” said Chris Schafer, Public Policy Manager for Uber Canada, in an email. “We are eager to engage with Halifax Regional Council to develop smart ridesharing regulations to ensure residents can benefit from ridesharing.”