More ride options for getting across the city may soon be on the road.
Mayor Tara Veer and city manager Craig Curtis met with officials from the local taxi industry and Uber to learn more about the controversial issue of ride-sharing this week.
Uber has not announced an official launch date for service in Red Deer.
Veer said both meetings were simply about information gathering. Uber had hosted an information session for drivers in Red Deer in January.
Veer met with Ramit Kar, Uber’s Alberta general manager, and Michael van Hemmen, policy manager, on Friday.
“Much of the information was familiar to me as I have been watching closely with what has been transpiring in Edmonton and Calgary,” said Veer. “I have indicated that I have reserved judgment because obviously ride sharing is part of a more significant conversation.”
Veer had questions about municipal regulations and approaches to public safety and consumer protection. She said the city will continue to stay on top of what other municipalities are doing and what is transpiring in the region. There will be more conversations with Uber, she said.
Veer said the local cabbies had shared concerns about local regulations, expectations on meeting driver and public safety, consumer protection and market regulations.
The issue is not currently scheduled on the official council agenda.
Kar said there is interest from both a rider and driver perspective for the service in Red Deer. He said thousands of Red Deerians have opened the Uber app since January looking for transportation options. Uber will continue to assess the market for the ride-sharing service before making any decisions.
“Obviously in these tough economic times, this is a great opportunity for drivers to make a little more money,” said Kar. “For riders it’s just another great transportation option that takes the hassle out of getting around the city. Lastly the major benefit that we bring is on impaired driving. When people really have the opportunity to get a convenient, cheap, affordable ride home, they make smarter options.”
“We want to be everywhere,” he said. “We see Red Deer as a great market but we definitely do not have a launch date at this time.”
Uber is operating in smaller cities such as Guelph and Kingston in Ontario and U.S. cities with populations under 40,000. Kar said the company wants to operate everywhere.
“It is especially germane right now because of the economic climate that we are in,” said Kar. “If you look at other cities, for example, Edmonton the vast majority of our drivers are actually people that were at odds with the economic downturn. They may be looking for an opportunity to make a little bit of money on top of their current job. But there are also situations where people are using this as an opportunity to bridge them to their next full-time career.”