After a marathon 18 hour debate session and in a 23 to one vote, Ottawa City council has voted in favour of regulating Uber.
Starting on September 30, 2016, both residents and drivers in the nation’s capital will be able to legally use the service. The company had operated illegally in the city since 2014. In a statement to the Ottawa Citizen, Uber has said it will continue to offer its service in the city until the new bylaw comes in to effect.
In legalizing Uber and other ride-sharing services, Ottawa has jumped ahead of Toronto, which only last week started to hear recommendations on how to regulate the popular San Francisco-based startup.
The new bylaw is set to create a significant new stream of revenue for the city. Under the new bylaw, the City of Ottawa will create a new “private transportation company” license category. Uber, and any other future ride-sharing companies that wish to operate in Ottawa will be classified under this category and will be required to pay a licensing fee to the city. For Uber, that fee is expected to cost $7,253. In addition, Uber will be required to pay a 11 cent per ride commission to the city.
The company will also be expected to have a minimum of $2 million in insurance coverage for its drivers.
While much of the bylaw focuses its attention on regulating Uber, Ottawa City Council also took steps to modernize how it governs taxi drivers and brokerages. Once the city begins enforcing the bylaw later this year, the cost of taxi licenses will decrease from $170 to $96. Moreover, taxi passengers will also no longer be required to pay a $1.50 fee for using a credit or debit card to settle their taxi fare.
Despite the steps the city took to help make their business more competitive, most taxi drivers were not happy with the new bylaw. One taxi plate owner present at the session, Tony Hajjar, yelled at councillors, “Do you know what the hell you are doing?”
The City of Ottawa will review the bylaw in one year.
Update: Uber has released an official statement:
“Uber applauds the City of Ottawa and the leadership of Mayor Watson, Chair Deans, city council and city staff for being the first jurisdiction in Ontario to adopt a progressive regulatory framework that embraces ridesharing.
The new ridesharing rules are good for riders, good for drivers, and will lead to better transportation options in Ottawa.
The constructive approach demonstrated by the City of Ottawa to modernize its transportation laws can serve as a model for all Canadian regulators and elected officials.”