A major player in the ridesharing industry is hitting Winnipeg streets Tuesday morning.
U.S.-based Uber is finally launching its service for Winnipeg passengers at City Hall at 11 a.m.
“Winnipeggers now have an affordable option to help get where they need to go, when they need to,” said Uber Canada’s Michael van Hemmen.
“And for those with a safe driving record, a flexible opportunity to earn money on their own time. We’d like to thank mayor Bowman, council, and the province for their support in bringing ridesharing to Winnipeg.”
Uber was engaged in a long negotiation process with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), before receiving its dispatcher licence from the City of Winnipeg in June.
Although ridesharing legislation in Winnipeg went through in 2018, Uber resisted entering the market due to MPI’s regulations around vehicle-for-hire coverage, which requires drivers to choose from four different time slots, as opposed to blanket coverage as seen in other parts of the country.
Months of behind-the-scenes negotiations paved the way for Uber to finally apply to operate in the city in May.
“We never stopped having conversations with them, and I think the more conversation we had, it was testimony to the fact that both parties were willing to understand each other,” MPI’s Brian Smiley told 680 CJOB in the spring.
“I believe that Uber has gone on record to say they feel more comfortable with the model we have in place, they have a better understanding of it, and consequently, they made the decision to do business in the Winnipeg market.”
To celebrate the company’s entry into Winnipeg, the Uber Eats food delivery platform is offering Winnipeggers two-for-one Slurpees this month.
On the day Uber officially launched in Winnipeg, taxi companies were presenting at the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works asking for a 50 per cent rate reduction in the 17 cent trip fee the city collects.
The fee reduction, if approved, would only be in effect until the impact of COVID-19 subsides.
In Winnipeg taxi companies say business has dropped 85 per cent on some days.
“COVID’s been tough for the taxi industry,” General Manager for Duffy’s Taxi Ram Valluru said.
“Every taxi is a small business they pay taxes here and build their lives on this industry. They trust the citizens and provide services. During the pandemic they provide the service to those who are going to the grocery store and their appointments.”
Harjit Chahal, General Manager of Unicity Taxi says expenses have been higher for drivers during the pandemic — paying for gloves, masks and cleaning supplies.
He says even though there are fewer customers needing rides right now, he’s not worried about Uber.
“We welcome the competitors, but we need the same level of playing field. The thing is we are paying higher insurance than the ride sharing companies. When we are paying more for doing the same job – it should be the same,” he said.
“We have the video cameras and the shields in our cars. These are the bylaws in the city. It should be the same for every vehicle that is providing this service in the city.”