Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft could be allowed to operate in the City of Saint John within the next year.
Saint John Common Council has approved a motion to create a bylaw that would regulate ridesharing services in the city.
The move follows the introduction of legislation by the provincial government that would give services a greenlight to come to New Brunswick.
The Saint John motion, authored by Coun. Greg Norton and amended at Monday’s meeting of Common Council, asks the city manager to draft a bylaw that would receive third and final reading during 2021.
Coun. Donna Reardon supported the motion, but with reservations.
“The whole world seems to be going with rideshare right now,” Reardon said. “The old-fashioned rideshare is the bus. So, I think it’s a good idea. I think we should move forward with it, but I do want to make sure, like I said, that it does align with the other industries that we have, it’s not creating any harm for anyone.”
Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing services have become popular alternatives to more traditional options like taxicabs and public transit.
At least one taxi owner believes adding ridesharing services to the mix will be devastating for his company.
Abdul Rahimi has owned Saint John Taxi for 17 years. He said business is down 80-90 per cent during the pandemic.
Rahimi said allowing ridesharing services to enter the market would show the City of Saint John does not support local businesses.
“And we are all in the same boat,” Rahimi said of Saint John Taxi and other cab companies in the city. “If (the city) bring Uber or Lyft or whatever you call it, it’s going to hurt us a lot. It will. Especially myself — I’m talking on behalf of me and my company, it will finish us.”
Collin told council public consultation on a rideshare by-law won’t be a for or against question, but rather how Saint John can best implement a ride share service. He said the service is coming, but how to make it work is to be determined.
Gerry Lowe, the former councillor and ex-MLA, owned Vet’s Taxi in Saint John for 43 years.
He said there is not enough demand for a rideshare program in the city.
“Uber and Lyft will never come to Saint John,” Lowe said. “It doesn’t have the population and it doesn’t have the population for calls, right? And if it’s done locally, if someone starts (a rideshare) locally, I don’t think it can survive for the simple reason that there’s not enough work.”
Reardon said rideshare services can benefit the city.
“If we’re all playing fair ball and we all have the same set of rules I think, absolutely,” Reardon said. “We’ve talked about ridesharing with (Saint John) transit and maybe completing the last mile because, as you know, we are over 300 square kilometres.
“We’ve got to provide the services to citizens as best we can, but provide them strategically as well.”
The bylaw is expected to be ready for implementation by 2022.