Taxi, limo and Uber-style businesses will all be regulated by the City of Red Deer under new “equitable” parameters approved Monday.
Red Deer city council debated three choices around creating a new bylaw for taxis, limos, sedans and vehicle-for-hire services, such as Uber.
They decided in the end to make the city possibly the first municipality in the province to regulate both taxis and Uber-type services under the same umbrella regulations.
The city could have created a unified license for all of these vehicles, allowing the companies to be self-regulating, under Option 1.
Or they could have create a unified license for Uber-type services only and a city-regulated licensing for all other types of vehicles for hire (including taxis), under Option 2.
But council supported Option 3, which will require all of these vehicles, including taxis and Uber, to be regulated by the city.
City administrators recommended this option. While inspections and licensing manager Erin Stuart admitted no other municipality she knew of regulated both taxis and Uber (who usually operate unregulated or self-regulated), she said this was favoured for two main reasons: equability and safety.
The knock against making businesses self-regulating, she added, is the sense safety can be compromised when companies are responsible for ensuring their vehicles and drivers get adequate mechanical inspections and police checks.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes suggested Option 2, saying council must respect the two industries have very different business models.
Coun. Vesna Higham agreed, saying “why are we trying to reinvent the wheel” when other municipalities allow the two different kinds of businesses to be regulated differently?
But Coun. Michael Dawe felt it unfair to make the taxis industry have to live up to many rules and regulations and costs. It would be “a very unfair playing field” if Uber is allowed to self-regulate, added Dawe, who supported Option 3.
Mayor Tara Veer also wanted to create “if not perfect equity, then parity.” She suggested going with the recommended option, but varying the requirements for Uber, which operates with very part-time drivers, versus taxis, which have a full-time fleet.
Council directed administration to come up with a bylaw in which the city regulates both taxis and Uber —but under a different fee structure and inspection requirements that acknowledge the differences between full- and part-time drivers.
Coun. Ken Johnston felt Uber will not be driven out of Red Deer if council sets fees that reflect the difference between full- and part-time drivers.
But Coun. Tanya Handley cautioned against lowering fees too much so city taxpayers are having to subsidize the regulatory costs.
City administration will use these parameters to create new draft regulations that will be brought back to council later this year.