Waterloo Region stuck in traffic

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The Region of Waterloo has delayed publishing its bylaw regulating ride sharing services in order to see how other municipalities will design their policy.&nbsp;</p>

Toronto and Ottawa are both working on similar bylaws. By waiting to see what both cities do, Waterloo is hoping to limit potential discrepancies between municipalities for drivers. 

“Thinking about the broader perspective when it comes to taxi licensing, we want to know where other [municipalities] are going with respect to this because we don’t want to be out of step … because it only causes controversy between municipalities in applying regulation,” said Kris Fletcher, the director of council and administrative services at the Region of Waterloo.

Since Uber has come to the ride sharing market, local taxi companies have faced greater competition affecting the success of their business.

“It has affected it diversely. The longer they wait, the better a foothold Uber can make,” said Peter Newfeld, president of Waterloo Taxi. “The region has decided to be a little slow … I think they are afraid of it; it’s far too difficult for them to police.”

Newfeld ultimately hopes the bylaw will place greater regulations on the ride sharing market. “We have been here for 70 years,” he said. “By all means let’s see who is better.”

In August 2015, Waterloo had announced its intention to create a ridesharing bylaw, but since then multiple factors have caused the bylaw to delay. In the bylaw’s early stages, the city collected public surveys on the topic. Councillors returned to that research and chose to send it to a third party for review. According to Fletcher, the unbiased review was not returned until mid-November. Further delays took place as Bill 131 was introduced aiming to regulate transportation network companies throughout the province. Also in December, the federal competition bureau issued a waiver paper on taxi licensing and regulating groups outside the normal taxi marketing. 

With the multiple documents being published within the same time frame, councillors were unable to review all documents. Come late December, the region published a report outlining three options for council’s consideration. As Fletcher explained, one option suggested to “delay the bylaw indefinitely,” while another suggested to stop development on the bylaw until April [2016]. The current option the region is pursuing is to wait until March [2016] in order to gain greater consultation.  

“Our intent always has been, that there should be a level playing field. Taxi drivers are both Uber drivers as well as [have] a regular taxi driving license. We were trying to determine what the region should or should not regulate,” Fletcher said. 

In drafting this bylaw, councillors are faced with multiple questions. 

“Should there be limits to the number of licenses issued? Should the region be responsible for setting fares? Should the region only license drivers and owners of vehicles? Should the region license brokers?” Fletcher said. 

For the region, the main priority is safety, “which is really what the region can regulate,” Fletcher said. One option council is considering is the installation of cameras, however GPS devices are also being thought of as an alternative. Fletcher also adds that the region feels that every vehicle should be regulated in some capacity. 

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