Uber legal in Niagara from July 1

Niagara has made its Uber decision, allowing the company and other ride-sharing firms to be legal in the city from July 1. The police services board approved the regulation of Uber in its monthly meeting last Thursday, while also making several changes to taxi laws in a bid to create an even playing field.

Among the taxi law changes were the ability for drivers to now operate anywhere in the region, whereas previously they were limited to the municipality where their license was issued. Coventry Connections, the company that owns Central Taxi and announced layoffs in Ottawa because of Uber, said the police board made “tough decisions.”

“They had to skirt between wanting the new ride-sharing economy to operate and, at the same time, make sure it is safe and consumers are protected.”

“People are noticing,” he said. “They know when you enter a taxi it is a safe place to be. It has a predictable price — there is no surge pricing.

“We have done a lot. We have gone to hybrids. We have gone to point-of-sale devices. We have gone to apps. We have improved our code of conduct, and our drivers are permanent. Uber drivers come and go. Our taxis also have cameras and safety measures that there is no way Uber will have.”

Uber has been operating in Niagara unregulated and illegally, allowing customers to hail freelance drivers through the company’s smartphone application. The company has yet to say whether it will agree with the bylaw, but spokesperson Susie Heath commended the decision.

“We will be reviewing the bylaw in depth and speaking with local officials to further understand how the regulations may be implemented, and will have more to say in the coming days,” she said.

Uber has previously left markets in which it has not agreed with regulations, but in other instances has tried to re-negotiate with authorities for easier terms. It is unclear which directions the company will take this time.

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