Uber became the first ridesharing company to operate in Saskatchewan when it launched Tuesday at Saskatoon city hall.
The app-based service had “dozens” of drivers when the service kicked off at approximately 1:30 p.m., and about six or seven were on the roads at the time of the launch.
“The hope and the goal is that we’ll be able to expand to include some of those broader communities that are on the outskirts of Saskatoon,” said Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s business manager in Western Canada.
He declined to share how many rides the company expects to deliver in Saskatoon.
At first, rides will only be offered in Saskatoon city limits through the standard UberX service. As capacity grows, the company hopes to introduce larger vehicles through UberXL to accommodate groups.
A trip from the University of Saskatchewan residences to downtown pubs and restaurants would typically cost $10 to $12. Travelling from College Park to the Broadway Theatre would cost $12 to $13. A trip from Forest Grove to SaskTel Centre is estimated to cost $19-$21.
Saskatchewan’s Vehicles for Hire Act went into effect on Dec. 14, 2018, requiring eligible drivers to have a commercial licence (Class 1-4) or a Class 5 with conditions.
Days later, Saskatoon city council approved a bylaw, which mandated a $3.75 minimum fare, criminal record checks for drivers, and a business licensing structure.
Becoming an Uber driver takes approximately one week, according to van Hemmen.
Several members of Saskatoon’s taxi industry spoke at a Dec. 17, 2018, meeting arguing ridesharing’s introduction creates an unfair playing field.
There is no cap on the number of ridesharing vehicles allowed to operate in the city, while the number of taxis is capped.
Saskatchewan is the first Canadian province to have public auto insurance and ridesharing, according to Uber.
Some municipal and provincial leaders hoped to see Uber in the province before Christmas.
“The cities wanted more information and they needed more information. We thought we’d shared enough,” Minister Responsible for SGI Joe Hargrave said.
Hargrave joined representatives from Uber and MADD Canada for the ridesharing company’s first ride in the province.
The hope, according to Hargrave and MADD’s Michelle Okere, is to curb Saskatchewan’s impaired driving numbers, which are among the highest in Canada.
“There is a huge need to fill in those gaps, especially at peak times, late at night, when people are leaving the bar,” Okere said.
Regina approved its ridesharing rules on Jan. 28.
Lyft, one of Uber’s biggest competitors in other cities, has not disclosed any potential launch details in Saskatchewan.