Uber announces plans to launch in Halifax by year’s end

Click to play video 'Uber coming to Halifax once enough drivers hired' Uber coming to Halifax once enough drivers hired
WATCH: Ridesharing services are another step closer to arriving in Halifax, as Uber Canada announced plans to launch its app in the city by the end of the year. Graeme Benjamin reports that won't happen until they find enough drivers – Oct 8, 2020

One of the most popular ridesharing services in North America says it intends to arrive in Halifax before the new year.

Uber says they’re currently in the process of planning to seek a licence and launch their ridesharing app within the next couple of months.

For Matthew Price, general manager of Uber Canada, Thursday’s announcement was a long time coming.

“I think people are pretty excited,” Price said in a FaceTime interview with Global News, “and it doesn’t surprise me, because people have been waiting for years.

“Halifax is in need of transportation alternatives, and we’re happy to provide that.”

Matthew Price, general manager of Uber Canada, speaks to Global News on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Via Zoom

Before Uber can launch in Halifax, they’re going to need drivers. Price says he isn’t able to pinpoint exactly how many drivers are needed, but says a large number will be required in order to serve the biggest area that they can.

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“We want to offer the most reliable, most affordable, safest service we can,” said Price. “More drivers helps us do that.”

Read more: Halifax to permit ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft to operate in the municipality

There’s a long list of requirements applicants will need in order to become a driver.

Interested workers will need to register and complete the sign-up process on the company’s website. They’ll be required to get criminal background checks every year and have their identities checked with the child abuse registry.

They also need to provide a medical examination report in order to receive a Class 4 licence.

“Ridesharing is a heavily-regulated industry, as it should be,” said Price. “We have a responsibility to keep people safe.”

Price adds that Uber will distribute PPE to drivers in Halifax, similarly to what they’ve done in other markets across Canada.

Click to play video 'Selfie safety: Uber launches new mask verification feature' Selfie safety: Uber launches new mask verification feature
Selfie safety: Uber launches new mask verification feature – Sep 25, 2020

Uber will also be implanting a “no mask, no ride” policy for both riders and passengers.

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“Every time a driver goes online, we’ll ask them to take a selfie to verify that they’re wearing a mask or a face cover, and riders where there’s a report of not having worn a mask, we’ll ask them to do the same,” he added.

Uber’s announcement on Thursday comes just over two weeks after Halifax council voted 13 to 4 in favour of amending the municipality’s Taxi and Limousine by-law.

As part of the changes, ride-hailing services will be required to pay an annual fee that ranges from as low as $2,000 to as high as $25,000.

For the taxi industry, Thursday’s announcement from Uber is daunting.

“The cab drivers can’t compete. We have one taxi work in Halifax. We have a real problem because there are only four company brokers in HRM,” said Darshan Virk, president of the United Cab Drivers Association of Halifax.

Crissy McDow runs the Lady Driver Her shuttle service, which offers pre-booked transportation to and from the Halifax airport. She worries about the regulations Uber will held to when or if they do arrive.

“I am afraid that they are going to be on their way here. We’re going to have to learn how to co-exist, however none of us are happy about that,” said McDow.

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Read more: Halifax one step closer to getting ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft

For many in Halifax, the idea of Uber arriving remains polarizing.

“I feel like a lot of students are going to be using it, because a bunch of us are tired of busing,” said student Beste Baltas. “So Uber is really easy and you don’t have to wait for a bus.”

“I am not pleased, I don’t like Uber. I never use Uber,” said local resident Cheryl Fraser. “Both my brothers, before they retired, were taxi drivers. So it’s impacting the local economy, but in a negative way.”

Uber has still not provided an exact date for when they plan to begin services in Halifax.