(Black Press file photo).

Will Red Deer be among the first municipalities to self-regulate the taxi industry?

New terms around vehicles for hire bylaw discussed by city council

The advantages and disadvantages of making Red Deer’s now highly regulated taxi companies self-regulating will be studied by Red Deer city administration.

If the change is implemented, Red Deer could become among the first Canadian cities to treat taxi companies the same as self-regulating Uber and other driving services.

“I don’t know of any other cities that are doing it,” said licensing and inspections manager Erin Stuart.

On Monday, Stuart and her staff were asked by council to look into the idea of having unified licences for taxis, as well as Uber or Lyft, for a proposed new vehicle for hire bylaw.

This means more of the administrative burden would be borne by the companies instead of the municipality.

Instead of city hall being responsible for the administration of driver, vehicle and broker licences for taxis, all three would be rolled into just one licence.

And the companies, themselves, would have to assume responsibility for ensuring that all their drivers are operating with valid driver’s licences, registration, insurance, a criminal records check, and regular car maintenance inspections.

The idea behind drafting a new bylaw is to even the playing field between the highly regulated taxi industry and services such as Uber, which have been operating in the city since 2017 without any municipal regulations (they have provincial rules, however).

Stuart said she and her staff hadn’t considered making unified licenses for taxis one of the options for council to consider under the terms of reference discussed Monday around the pending new driver-for-hire bylaw.

Stuart isn’t aware of any taxi companies that don’t rely on a municipality to approve the variety of licences they need to operate.

But the cost the City of Red Deer is bearing for processing these types of licences was found to be hefty. To recover it from drivers for hire, the city would have to considerably hike up their license costs.

Their vehicle licence, for example, would cost $265 instead of $54, while their driver’s licence would cost $100 instead of $48.

Some city councillors questioned this huge increase, which would put Red Deer more in line with what large centres were charging, instead of fees set by mid-sized cities.

Stuart was asked to come back within eight weeks with the results of an investigation into whether unified licences could work for all driver-for-hire operations.

Coun. Tanya Handley learned about the concept of unified licences while investigating how Uber operates.

She’s unsure if unified licenses would work for the local taxi industry, but believes council needs to hear the pros and cons before making a decision.

Certainly, having one licence to apply for instead of three would streamline the bureaucratic process for the operators, she added.

While public concerns are stirred whenever companies are allowed to be self-regulating, Handley said it would be up to council to ensure the process looks out for public safety.

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