Halifax has taken the next step towards introducing ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to the municipality.
At Tuesday’s meeting of Halifax Regional Council, councillors voted to 16 to 1 to pass a heavily-amended motion that directed staff to prepare bylaw amendments that would create a regulatory framework for ridesharing services, which the municipality calls Transportation Networking Companies (TNC), in Halifax.
The mayor will also write a letter to the Nova Scotia government to request amendments to the province’s Motor Vehicle Act that would give the municipality the power to charge TNCs a per-trip fee.
As multiple councillors stressed on Tuesday, the ball is now in the province’s court on whether they’ll follow the requests of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
A major sticking point in the debate was the need for a provision that would permit TNC drivers to have a basic Class 5 licence rather than a more specialized Class 4 licence, the same as taxi drivers in the province.
The minimum requirements for a Class 4 licence include:
- Being at least 18 years old
- One year’s experience as a graduate (or Class 5) licence holder
- Providing “satisfactory medical and optical reports” when applying and at designated periods afterward
- Successfully demonstrate driving ability in a Class 4 vehicle.
“To be clear we cannot rule that an Uber or Lyft driver have a Class 4 licence… We can only write a letter to the province to indicate what way we are leaning,” said Coun. Lisa Blackburn.
Staff had originally recommended that a Class 5 licence would be appropriate for TNC drivers, but the motion was changed after a 9-to-8 vote for an amendment proposed by Coun. Paul Russell.
“Frankly it seems like a reasonable thing for me to know that… I am getting in a car with someone who has passed a medical recently,” said Russell.
But the change, if allowed by the province, could throw a hitch in bringing TNCs to Halifax.
Councillors Waye Mason and Matt Whitman indicated that Uber and Lyft — two of the largest TNC companies in the world — have told them that a requirement of a Class 4 licence would hinder, if not outright halt, their entrance into the HRM.
Whitman, who was the only one to vote against the main amended motion, went as far to say that ridesharing services were “not going to come to fruition” in Halifax due to Russel’s motion.
“I think we need to make it easier for these companies to come and do business here,” said Whitman during the debate.
“This will be great for the suburbs, rural areas.”
Another change introduced by Halifax Regional Council is a tiered fee system for TNCs looking to bring their services to the HRM.
Rather than an annual licensing fee of $25,000 for each company, which staff had originally recommended, the municipality will now investigate a tiered system that is dependent on the number of vehicles each TNC is operating in the city.
Companies operating between one and 10 vehicles will be required to pay an annual fee of $2,000. For TNCs operating between 11 and 25 vehicles, a $5,000 annual fee would be required, while companies operating between 26 and 100 vehicles would be required to pay a $10,000 fee.
A company operating more than 100 vehicles would be required to pay a $25,000 fee.
Councillors have also requested two supplemental reports from municipal staff with regards to licensing drivers of TNCs and for an additional surcharge that would support the municipality’s active transportation network.