London city councillors have given the final green light to Uber regulations, set to come into place in early 2017 in the form of a new bylaw.
Last week, the city council, in a 7-4 vote, directed city staff to write an updated taxi bylaw draft to include app-based transportation services such as Uber. The bylaw is expected to come into place by March 2017.
“I think for the most part it’s going to allow for a larger range of vehicles to be operating, I think it’ll be from a student perspective, a consumer’s perspective as providing more choice in the marketplace and I think people are going to appreciate that,” said Ward 4 Councillor Jesse Helmer.
The new bylaw will allow transportation network companies such as Uber to use surge pricing within their apps. Uber and similar transport companies will also not be required to install in-car cameras as is the policy for regular taxi companies.
Maureen Cassidy, Ward 5 Councillor, said surge pricing is only allowed for companies that use apps so the customer can know in advance exactly how much they will be charged. This means taxi companies using apps for their services will also be able to use surge pricing.
However, the new bylaw will still require in-car cameras for regular taxi and limousine services.
Cassidy said that because the Uber app allows the exchange of information between the driver and the passenger, councillors felt these features were adequate for security and in-car cameras were not necessary.
"So when you book a ride with a private vehicle-for-hire through an app there is certain information that is exchanged — so you know who the driver is, their driving record, you know a lot of information about the driver and the passenger,” she said.
The bylaw changes has its critics on council with four councillors voting against it.
“Uber operates illegally in the city of London and we need to insure there is a fair and equitable playing field for taxis and I feel that particularly two elements,” said Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert.
Hubert questioned the rule allowing criminal record checks to be done by a third party of Uber’s choice.
“The second point is that criminal record checks shouldn’t be outsourced to third party provider but should be done by the [London Police Service],” he said.
He also questioned the logic behind requiring in-car cameras for taxis and not for Uber. He believes the cameras are essential to insure the safety of passengers and drivers.
Jamie Cleary, University Students’ Council vice-president, said it is hard to say whether cameras are essential for safety as there is no data on it.
“Anecdotally we’ve heard from a lot of students that personally they might feel safe but I can’t say to certainty because we don’t have any data on it,” he said.
More information will be available in a year's time when the LPS reports safety data on Ubers versus taxis and the need for cameras, Cleary added.
Once city staff has drafted the updated bylaw, the council's community and protective services committee will consider it, before it goes to the council for final debate and vote.
“I think this shows that London is moving forward," Cleary said. "We’re a creative city and we need to be able to support creative ways either to get around and live in the city and also to work in the city and Uber is just one step in doing that."