Canadian Underwriter

Ottawa city council approves new vehicle-for-hire regulations

April 13, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Ottawa city council announced on Wednesday that it has approved new vehicle-for-hire regulations, making it one of the first Canadian jurisdictions to adopt regulations for private transportation companies (PTCs).

In January, Edmonton became the first jurisdiction in Canada to legalize ridesharing services. But by March, officials with ridesharing company Uber said that they were suspending operations in the city until after the Alberta government makes insurance available to drivers, likely not until the summer.

vehicle-for-hireEffective Sept. 30, a PTC that wishes to operate in the City of Ottawa will need to obtain an operating license similar to that of a taxi broker, city council said in a press release. Prior to commencing operations and on a regular basis thereafter, each PTC must supply to the city information about its drivers and their vehicles. This will include proof of police background checks, vehicle inspections and proper insurance. PTCs will pay the same broker fee as traditional taxi companies, while also paying a “comparable licensing fee on a per-ride basis,” the release said.

In Ottawa, city council also adopted a “lighter regulatory framework for the traditional taxi industry in order to allow it to compete and innovate with new service offerings,” the city said. The new features of the taxi regulations include the following:

  • Allowing taxi companies to offer reduced fares when rides are booked through an app;
  • Eliminating the $1.50 credit and debit card fee;
  • Reducing the taxi driver license fee by 40% (from $170 to $96);
  • Waiving the taxi driver license fee for accessible taxis (from $170 to $0);
  • Eliminating interior and trunk size requirements for vehicles;
  • Increasing maximum vehicle age from eight to 10 years;
  • Allowing taxi companies to determine their own industry-specific customer service training, instead of the $820 standard taxicab driver course at Algonquin College;
  • Retaining taxis’ exclusive ability to accept “street hails,” together with exclusive use of taxi stands and lanes’
  • Retaining exclusive Para Transpo contract, worth about $9 million annually; and
  • ‎Allowing for nominal cancellation fees and surcharges for premium vehicle options when rides are booked through an app.

Related: Uber launches campaign to gather public support ahead of Ottawa city vote

The City of Ottawa will continue to enforce the existing bylaw until the new regulations come into effect.

“Today’s decision moves our transportation system in the right direction by challenging the status quo and opening up the market to competition,” said Mayor Jim Watson in the release. “Ottawa should be a place where people have access to safe, competitive, affordable, and effective transportation options.”

Councillor Diane Deans, chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee, said that more than 6,000 people participated in consultations and helped the city “come up with a smart set of 21st century regulations. Under the new rules, I have every confidence that the traditional taxi industry will change and succeed in this competitive environment.”