Let’s Make Uber Work for Calgarians

Uber clearly matters to Calgarians.  Over the last number of months my office has received dozens of emails from residents that are pledging their support for Uber.  Many of the people who have written to my office have stated that this is their first time ever writing an elected official.  That is a hugely positive thing in my books.


I do want to make a few things clear.  There is currently a lot of misinformation regarding The City’s position on this issue.  This is not a referendum on whether or not Uber is a good thing.  I think my colleagues on Council would agree that Uber has the potential to provide a tremendous amount of benefit to Calgarians.  What is up for debate is the regulatory framework that will allow Uber to legally operate in Calgary.  We have an obligation to make sure we create a framework that is fair for Uber, fair for other transportation services and safe for Calgarians.

Building the Regulatory Framework

On February 22, 2016 City administration will present proposed bylaw amendments to Council.  These amendments would create an environment where Uber could legally operate in Calgary.

Uber has a number of concerns with these amendments:

  • Fees:
    • Uber has indicated the fee structure is prohibitive.
    • The amendment would see a $220/driver per year fee for an acceptable licence.
      • This fee makes sure that Calgarian tax payers are not paying the costs of the administrative fees required to process licences.
      • I believe most Calgarians would agree that The City should not be subsidizing very profitable private businesses.
    • Calgary Police Service would conduct a criminal history check for $30.
      • If there is a flag there may be an additional check for $25.
      • The CPS checks for things like previous pardons for sexual offenders. The Uber check does not include this.
  • Police Checks/Driver Safety Screening:
    • Uber is opposed to the comprehensive Calgary Police Service (CPS) criminal history check and would like to perform its own background checks through a third-party company.
    • Uber insists that the 8-day turnaround required for a CPS check is unreasonable.
    • CPS checks are the most comprehensive available and look into pardons for previous sexual offences as well as national police information.
      • Private third-party checks (like the ones done by Uber) have limited access to many criminal history databases.
  • Vehicle Inspections:
    • Uber opposes the proposal for provincially-approved vehicle inspections every six months.
    • The proposed inspection process is available throughout Calgary.
    • Mechanical inspections ensure the safety of passengers, drivers and citizens.
    • The proposed inspection is a 134 point inspection which is far more comprehensive than the Uber inspection. I have included a link to both inspection safety forms for your reference:

Government of Alberta Auto Check List                                                          

Uber Auto Check List

  • Uber would like to see a one-month delay from the time of licensing to the requirement of an inspection being conducted.
    • If a vehicle is unsafe, this would open up Calgarians to unneeded risk.
  • A comprehensive safety inspection fee that ranges from $140 to $179. This would be conducted by a mechanic.  The less comprehensive Uber safety check costs between $69 and $100 and can be conducted by a technician.

The City elaborated further on Uber’s comments in a recent blog which you can find here: http://www.calgarycitynews.com/2016/02/safe-transportation-options-on-way.html

Uber would like to see The City remove as many barriers as possible for prospective drivers.  Removing barriers and red tape to allow business to prosper is a great thing.  With that being said, there needs to be an appropriate balance between ease of access for drivers and safety for Calgarians.

I remain very disappointed that Uber began operations in Calgary knowing full well that they were in violation of the bylaws that The City had in place.  If Uber was truly interested in partnering with The City, this was not the right way to kick off that relationship.

The Battle of Alberta

Uber has suggested that Calgary should consider the same regulatory framework that Edmonton recently put in place.  Here is a comparative breakdown between the Edmonton framework and what is being proposed by The City of Calgary:

(Note that TNC stands for Transportation Network Companies which applies to Uber and companies similar to Uber)

Comparable Bylaw Sections Calgary’s Proposal Edmonton’s Bylaw
Driver’s Licence Requirements 
  • Every person who wants to drive for a Transportation Network Company (TNC) must obtain a municipal licence, by providing the following documents*:
    • Valid Commercial Insurance
    • Drivers Licence Class 1,2,4
    • Driver Licence Abstract (9 points max)
    • CPS criminal history check
    • Proof of eligibility to work in Canada
    • Mechanical Inspection
    • Vehicle Registration

    *TNCs may choose to submit driver’s qualification documents on behalf of their drivers electronically.

  • To obtain a municipal licence, the TNC must provide The City of Edmonton with notification that the driver has a:
    • Valid Commercial Insurance
    • Drivers Licence Class 1,2,4
    • Third-party criminal history check
    • Mechanical Inspection

    In order to become a TNC driver,Edmonton does not have a requirement of proof of eligibility to work in Canada.

    The City of Edmonton will conduct periodic audits to confirm accuracy of TNC driver credentials and qualifications.

*Criminal Background Check
  • All livery drivers including TNC drivers must obtain a Calgary Police Service (CPS) criminal history check.

    This includes which includes pardoned sexual offenders.

  • ​TNCs will use their third party service provider to complete criminal background checks.

    This does not include checks for pardoned sexual offenders.

**Mechanical Inspections
  • All TNC vehicles require:
    • 134-point provincially-approved mechanical inspection, which is consistent with requirements for taxis and limousines.
    • Mechanical inspections due every six months.
    • Mechanical inspections required prior to registering the vehicle with The City.
  • ​ All TNC vehicles require:
    • 26-point TNC inspection form, however mechanical inspection not required at the time of application.
    • Mechanical inspections are required to be conducted annually, but not submitted to Administration.

    Check for mechanical inspection conducted by livery officers in the field.

  • TNC Licence Fee: $1753 per year.

    TNC drivers pay a licence fee of $220 per year.

  • TNC Licence Fee including Accessible Subsidy: $70,000 per year.

    TNC drivers pay a licence fee of $0.06 per trip.

Trip Data
  • ​Requiring TNCs to submit trip data, driver availability and trip volumes.
  • ​Data submission requirements to be determined.
  • ​App-based rates (taxis and TNCs): unregulated rates.

    Street hail and phone dispatch (taxis only): regulated rates.

  • ​App-based rates (taxis and TNCs): unregulated rates.

    Street hail and phone dispatch (taxis only): regulated rates.

    Minimum fare for both taxis and TNCs of $3.25 per trip.

  • Calgary Police Service criminal history check: $30.

    A vulnerable sector check: $25 (only if finger prints are required)

    A 134 point vehicle safety inspection cost estimated: $140 to $179.

    TNCs have the opportunity to subsidize these fees and costs or pay for them outright to support their drivers.

  • Third party criminal history check cost estimated: $30.

    A 26 point vehicle safety inspection cost estimated: $60 to $90 (Uber’s advertising this as low as $34).

    TNCs have the opportunity to subsidize these fees and costs or pay for them outright to support their drivers.

Fleet Size
  • Limit on number of taxi plates and accessible taxi plates.

    No limit on TNC drivers.

  • Limit on number of taxi plates and accessible taxi plates.

    No limit on TNC drivers.

Uber has suggested that The City’s proposal is unworkable for their business model.  After looking at the differences between the two jurisdictions, I’m having a hard time coming to that same conclusion.  There are certainly differences between the two frameworks, but what Calgary has proposed is certainly workable.

I Support Making Calgary Better

I support Uber.  Calgarians should absolutely be asking The City what they plan on doing to allow for services like Uber to improve their lives.  With that being said, Calgarians should also be asking Uber what they plan on doing to offer a fair and safe service.

I have an open door policy when it comes to these kinds of issues.  I have met with cab drivers, I have met with taxi companies and I have met with Uber.  I go into these meetings with an open mind, and I plan on doing the same at Council on February 22.

I have also actively sought feedback from the residents of Ward 12.  These are the stakeholders that I am most accountable to.  My decision will be based on what is best for Ward 12 and what is best for Calgary as a whole.  Letters from cab companies, cab drivers or Uber will do nothing to change that.

I have heard loud and clear from many residents of Ward 12 that Uber is important to them.  Many residents have pointed out that it can be difficult and costly to get a cab to and from the deep southeast.  There have been numerous reports of cabs refusing to accept trips for residents that are looking to go into the deep southeast.  This is unacceptable and not fair for the residents of Ward 12.  Uber could certainly help with that situation.

I’m committed to finding a way to make Uber’s service work well for Calgarians.  If everyone has a chance to win, why should anyone have to lose?



You may also be interested in my previous blog on Uber:

Calgary Takes Steps That Would Allow Uber to Legally Operate