Uber Vehicles Now On City Streets

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Michael van Hemmen (left), Uber business manager for Western Canada, SGI Minister Joe Hargrave and Michelle Okere, MADD Canada’s regional manager for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, pulled up in front of city hall for the announcement that Uber vehicles were now on the streets of Saskatoon. Okere drove the vehicle, while Hargrave was given the distinction of the being the first passenger. (Photo by Cam Hutchinson)

Ride sharing officially came to Saskatoon last week, when the Uber app, which connects passengers to drivers, went live.

The announcement was made after a ceremonial first drive, with Michelle Okere, MADD Canada’s regional manager for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, dropping off SGI Minister Joe Hargrave and Michael van Hemmen, Uber business manager for Western Canada, in front of city hall. 

Aaron Shutra, an Express advertising representative, took Uber from his Lakeridge home to his office in the airport area on a cold morning last week when his car wouldn’t start. 

He was charged $18.37 on the distance, $4.55 for the time and a base fare of $3, as well as a booking fee. His total came to approximately $28. He will tip the driver through the app.

“That is probably just a fraction under a cab,” he said. 

Shutra said it took 15 or 20 minutes for the driver to arrive. The driver was making a drop-off in Stonebridge before heading for Shutra’s home.

“In big cities, they get there in five minutes, because there are so many cars,” Shutra said. 

Shutra said he will rate the driver a five out of five. Shutra checked online and saw that his rating was five as well. 

“I was nice because you can book it on the app and you can see where your car is at all times. It’s nice; I use them when I go on vacations.”

At the news conference, Okere, van Hemmen and Hargrave stressed that ride sharing will take impaired drivers off the road. 

“I am absolutely thrilled to have ride sharing come to Saskatchewan and recognizing there is a huge need to fill in those gaps, especially at peak times late at night when people are leaving the bar,” Okere said. “Sometimes there are not enough cabs on the road (and) public transportation might be shut down by that time. This really fills in a need for people who have been out.

How to become an Uber driver

Personal Requirements

  • Valid documentation to drive in your country
  • Proof of residency in your city or province
  • A driver profile photo
  • Criminal check
  • Complete driver abstract which will review your driving record over the past three years to make sure it’s acceptable.

Vehicle

  • Four doors
  • 10 years or newer (2009 model year or newer)
  • Good condition with no cosmetic damage
  • No salvaged or rebuilt vehicles
  • Pass a vehicle inspection by a licenced mechanic
  • Seat at least four passengers in addition to the driver
  • No cabs, government cars, or commercially-marked vehicles

More information is available at uber.com.

“We really want to get the point across that it is never OK to get behind the wheel when impaired by drugs or alcohol. So this is another tool in our fight against impaired driving. . . . We have had really great strides made over the last couple of years in Saskatchewan.”

There has been concern expressed that ride-sharing companies will take a big slice of rides from local cab companies.

Van Hemmen said ride sharing and cabs co-exist in other cities.

“That’s been the case whether it has been in Toronto or Brampton, in Montreal and in Calgary. I saw the regulator in Calgary recently quoted in local media highlighting the fact that taxi and ride sharing co-exist. In fact, ride sharing expands the number of trips.”

Numbers released last week in Calgary show ride-sharing companies are having an impact on the cab industry. The number of rides is going up, but disproportionately.

There were more than 10 million rides in Calgary in 2018, with ride-hailing companies getting about four million (40 per cent) of them, according to a CBC report. In 2017, ride-sharing companies had 2.2 million (25 per cent) of almost nine million trips. 

Abdul Rafih, Calgary’s chief livery inspector, told CBC the market has grown significantly since ride-sharing companies such as Uber were approved for operation in Calgary nearly two years ago.

“Did they take a slight bite out of the taxi pool? Yes, they did,” Rafih told the CBC. “But on the whole, trips are increasing and Calgarians are opting for more options.” 

The number of trips has gone up 35 per cent during the past four years, he said. Taxi companies have seen the number of trips drop over the last four years from nearly 7.5 million to just over six million. The four-year number includes a time before ride-sharing vehicles were licensed.

There are 4,500 taxi drivers — 1,881 cars — and 4,100 ride-sharing drivers in Calgary. 

Van Hemmen said there are dozens and dozens of drivers registered in Saskatoon. He said Uber is “an affordable, reliable way for Saskatoon residents to get from Point A to Point B. Now that ride sharing is available, drivers who have safe driving records are also able to partner with Uber to make more money for themselves and their families on their own schedule.”

For more information, visit Uber.com.