Ride-sharing

Transportation committee green lights report on ride-sharing service regulations

Committee wants regulations to be equal for traditional taxis and ride-sharing services

The transportation standing committee endorsed Uber and Lyft coming to Halifax and asked municipal staff to write a report on how to make it happen.

The request comes after a 2018 survey of more than 13,400 people found 88 per cent wanted services like Uber and Lyft to operate in the Halifax Regional Municipality, with almost 73 per cent citing safety as the main reason.

Ride-sharing services seemed safer to respondents because they store information on the driver, the destination, the type of car, and the real-time GPS location of the vehicle while in transit, according to a report commissioned by the municipality.

At Tuesday’s meeting, several councillors said the municipality must create a level playing field so traditional taxis aren’t disadvantaged.

“If we are going to allow these ride-hailing companies to come in, we can’t have a taxi industry burdened with extra regulation and then allow a free for all on the other side of the coin,” said Coun. Sam Austin.

Coun. Waye Mason agreed.

“I want to see it move forward as long as there is a level playing field. Same standards for vehicles, same training, same licensing, same penalties,” he said. “I think we can achieve that.”

The committee’s decision to welcome ride-sharing follows a 2018 report conducted for the municipality by Ottawa-based Hara Associates.

Hara’s report identified several advantages of ride-sharing apps, including:

  • Ease of payment: fees are automatically charged to credit cards
  • Electronic records: a statement of pickup is stored in the client’s email
  • Low prices: ride-sharing apps typically offer lower prices than taxis during off-peak periods
  • A driver rating system: drivers and passengers are able to rate one another

The report also identified disadvantages and questions, including:

  • Criminal record checks: how will they be carried out and to what level of rigor?
  • Driver training: should it be comparable to normal taxis in HRM?
  • Accessible services: ride-sharing taxis do not normally provide wheelchair accessible vehicles
  • Insurance: how much commercial insurance should ride-sharing taxis carry?
  • Impact on taxi services: ride-sharing services can disrupt the profitability of an existing taxi industry.

A motion to prepare the supplementary report was unanimously approved by transportation members. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 28.