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City rule changes ‘will not fly’ with Uber, critic says
July 14, 2016
Norman DeBono

Frank Suarez recalls how he would wheel his car between Western University and Richmond Row for about four hours on busy weekend nights, pocketing about $200 as an Uber driver.

The attraction of being a driver for hire, and not part of a business, is the freelance and freewheeling casual nature of the job — and that is why Uber will likely bristle at changes being proposed by the city, Suarez said Thursday.

“It will not fly,” he said of the new regulations proposed in a city staff report going to the community and protective services committee Tuesday.

“Uber will not be receptive to that, these are personal vehicles, not taxis,” said Suarez, who stopped driving for Uber in the fall.

City staff are proposing one bylaw and category for traditional taxis and personal vehicles for hire such as Uber to level the playing field between the two.

Changes would include:

Uber is likely to balk at the changes because many of its drivers are part-time. Making them pay full-time insurance rates and licensing fees and requiring them to install costly cameras likely would deter them.

The company said Wednesday it is looking at the proposed ­changes.

The ride-sharing company has been operating in London for a year.

Licensed city taxi drivers are likely to embrace the proposed changes, which would have to be approved by the committee and then full council.

“We support this, we agree with it. It is fair to everyone and consumers get protection,” said Nema Abbasey, a partner in Yellow Taxi.

“It gives us a level playing field to compete. We are behind it.”

The only change that would worry drivers is waiving a minimum rate, meaning cabbies can discount fares. Abbasey fears riders would demand lower rates, and it is already tough enough to make a living, he said.

“That will affect us big time. The market is saturated now and no one is making money. The service may suffer.”

Coun. Jesse Helmer questions many of the proposed changes, and whether the industry needs to be tightly regulated.

Required Uber drivers, especially part-timers, to spend $8,000 to $12,000 on commercial insurance and $1,000 to install cameras is unnecessary, he said: “We need to back off of the tight reins, the market can regulate this itself.”

Coun. Virginia Ridley, who chairs the committee, said the proposed rules for taxis and ride-sharing companies will change based on feedback from the public.