The San Francisco tech giant officially launched in the Queen city at 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Its first ride was welcomed to City Hall by Mayor Michael Fougere.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. I know that council and all Regina residents are really pleased to have rideshare and Uber here, and to have choice and competition in the marketplace to serve our residents better,” Fougere said.
Anyone with a credit card can download the Uber app, which can send a driver to the user in a matter of seconds. The company gave a few examples of projected local pricing. They say a trip form Whitmore Park to downtown will typically cost $14-$16, Victoria Park to the airport $12.50 to $14.50, and a ride from the University of Regina to downtown between $12 and $14.
To become an Uber driver, one needs a Class 5 license with at least two years driving experience, must have no more than 12 demerit points, must undergo a criminal record check and have their vehicles put through an annual safety inspection.
“Drivers can press a button, get online, and start making money for their families,” said Uber’s Western Canada Head of Operations and Public Affairs Michael van Hemmen. “It’s early days, but we are very happy with the number of drivers online today and we’ll get more and more as people get used to the service.”
Hemmen didn’t specify exactly how many drivers had signed up.
Uber has partnered with MADD Canada to tout the benefits of using their services to take impaired drivers off the road. MADD’s Western Canada Regional Director Tracy Crawford was on hand for the launch.
“We know it’s going to prevent people from driving impaired because you have additional options out there,” said Crawford. Crawford said that though there’s no data yet released to suggest ridesharing companies have reduced rates of impaired driving in Canada, studies of American cities have seen “positive results.”
Regina finalized its ridesharing bylaw on Feb. 25.
Members of the local taxi industry have voiced concerns with the regulations put in place. Taxi drivers need to pay for extra things like in-car cameras, vulnerable sector searches and identification badges. Capital Cabs manager Glen Sali said these regulations are important to keep hired drivers accountable, online or off.
“With any kind of ride share, there is no record of that. The city has no idea who’s driving these vehicles,” said Sali.
Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance Joe Hargrave said both vehicle-for-hire situations have their advantages.
“There’s certain things don’t have to do as well, for example they don’t have to have had their license for two years. There’s barriers going both ways, we think that it’s relatively a fair competition,” Hargrave said. “The ride share companies will have to make sure their at the top of their game and the taxi companies will have to make sure their at the top of their game as well.”
At the time of the launch, Uber is only offering their UberX service in Regina. They hope to offer some of their additional ride varieties, such as UberXL which allows user to request larger vehicles, in the future.
The service comes to Regina just three months after arriving in Saskatoon.