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Taxis, Uber to be affected by pilot
April 7, 2017
Bob Bruton

The ink could dry Monday on changes to Barrie bylaws dealing with taxi and ride-sharing services.

City council has the amended bylaws on its April 10 agenda.

The changes include a new, one-year pilot project that creates licensing costs and regulations for ride-sharing companies like Uber, while cutting them back for the taxi industry, beginning July 1.

The bylaws, for example, eliminate the licensing fee for taxi drivers and their vehicles to better level the playing field. So the city's 293 drivers will no longer pay fees, nor will there be fees for Barrie's 173 taxis.

The changes, however, would still increase taxi cab company licensing fees by $79 this year to $534 for the city's 10 companies.

And the city would no longer set taxi fares; the companies themselves would decide what a ride should cost.

Coun. Sergio Morales, who sits on Barrie's taxi working group, along with Coun. Peter Silveira, said he has no plans to amend the bylaws.

“I believe the general committee and council meetings we've had on this have been productive,” he said. “Let's get the pilot going and take it from there."

Silveira also said he had no amendments coming – noting it was his idea to reduce the pilot project to one year from two.

“At the end of the day my objective is to not only trying to level the plain field for the industry, but also make sure our community is safe and enjoy a better service overall,” he said.

Uber is a ride-sharing business which has generally offered lower prices than licensed taxis, in part because it doesn't have the same level of regulation.

The city has said its taxi industry regulations are inadequate to deal with riding-sharing or driver-for-hire businesses, and don't allow the taxi industry to compete fairly.

Uber has told the city it has between 301 and 450 active drivers in Barrie and that 433 trips were booked here from August to November last year. The licensing for its drivers and vehicles would be $6,888 in total under the new fees – plus 11 cents per trip.

Under the plan, a drive-for-hire company with 1-10 vehicles and drivers would pay a licensing fee of $303, one with 11-20 drivers and vehicles $732 and one with 20 or more vehicles and drivers $930.

Uber also says 433 active drivers made at least one trip from Aug. 28 to Nov. 28 last year – although the number of Uber drivers who make the bulk of the trips regularly here is quite small. But the company will have to submit documents about all of its active drivers that could operate in Barrie, even though the vast majority don’t drive daily in the city.

Last November Barrie had 10 taxi companies with 173 cabs and 293 drivers licensed by the city. But 62 of the 293 drivers were affiliated with at least two different taxi companies, and a number of the drivers were affiliated with as many as five different cab companies.

If these bylaws are passed Monday, meetings will be held with the taxi cab companies, the ride sharing/private transportation companies and the driver-for-hire companies to review the changes for each operation.

The city will also advertise the changes, including in This Week in Barrie, in the Examiner, and through social media.