Uber has finally launched its long-awaited ridesharing service, UberX, in Toronto. Similar to Sidecar or Lyft, UberX allows customers to hitch rides with “thoroughly screened driver partners, backed by industry-leading safety practices.”
The practice has taken off in other cities around the world, with tech-first cities like San Francisco and Portland leading the way, but there are concerns from Toronto’s City Hall that the practice may not be entirely legal.
“The City has significant concerns that Uber has launched a service, identified as UberX, which may be in contravention of the City’s bylaws, including those governing private transportation providers. Based on the information currently available, the city is concerned that the UberX service may pose a serious safety risk to the public, including those who are signing on as drivers,” Tracey Cook, executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, told us in a statement.
“The vehicles may not be equipped with the same security provisions as licensed taxis, such as cameras, nor have they undergone City mandated mechanical inspection and may be inadequately insured,” Cook continued.
Ridesharing promises to cut costs from regular taxi services by as much as 50%, with base costs starting at $2.75 versus $4.25 for a regular cab. Per kilometre pricing is also significantly lower at $0.90 compared to $1.75, and per-minute costs $0.20 less than a Toronto taxi.
Still, the venture may be big business for Toronto drivers looking to offset the rising price of gas. Like regular Uber services, riders can split the cost of a trip, further lowering costs, and drivers, while mandated to complete a series of screenings, are not held to the same high standards as licensed cab drivers.
Uber’s representatives claim that UberX is completely legal in Canada, and that despite changes to Toronto’s taxi bylaws there is no legislation to prohibit such a use case.
Uber has come under scrutiny, both in Toronto and abroad, for its aggressive recruitment tactics and ambiguous licensing practices. Unlike competitor Hailo, Uber does not operate in Toronto as a registered taxi company, allowing existing cab drivers from competitors like Beck and Crown to use the smartphone-based service to find extra fares. President of Hailo Canada, Justin Raymond, told us that while the company is eager to explore sources of transportation across Canada’s largest cities, it would always put its drivers’ and riders’ safety first. “The definition of ride sharing by the City of Toronto is illegal taxis. There is a reason proper licensing and insurance is in place,” he said.
UberX is now available in Toronto and Mississauga. The company has no plans at the moment to expand to other cities.