Tory: Uber cancels new licences in Canadian city

Photo: AFP

Uber has warned that the ability to book rides through its smartphone app will be more expensive in Toronto after the city council voted to freeze new licences for the service.

New licences were due to be available from 1 August, but were put on hold because councillors complained about rush hour congestion on the city’s roads.

Uber, which is based in San Francisco, said it would be offering discounted fares in Toronto during the next three months.

Randy Wilhelm, director of operations in Toronto, said the company would continue to offer UberPOOL – an off-peak service in which multiple riders travel together at the same time – during the moratorium period.

“Whenever we’re doing those types of promotions we can always let riders know whether or not they’re safe to use the app because that’s something you can’t control,” he said.

But Mr Wilhelm said higher prices would be more likely in future because Uber has no problem with the city mandating a five-minute wait time before a fare can be taken.

UberPOOL taxi drivers complained that their competition was costing them business because it took so long to get out of a car once a fare was completed.

“It takes a little over four and a half minutes when it’s a regular taxi to get out,” said Yellow Taxi Co-operative manager Perry Silver in an interview with CNN.

“But with UberPOOL it’s 10 minutes, 15 minutes sometimes. And when it takes that long, people drive faster and for longer distances.”

The Uber protests continued throughout the day.

Some cars were pulled over and brought to a standstill, and a Rideau Carleton terminal in the east end of the city was shut down by protesters.

The city has been at odds with Uber since late 2015 when it introduced its UberPOOL taxi service.

The service is similar to Uber’s more traditional vehicle-for-hire service.

A councillor in the City of Toronto who voted against the UberPOOL service claimed it had been a “publicity stunt.”

“We cannot trust this kind of behaviour,” he said.

“We have to take a stand that this is not the future, this is not how Toronto wants to run its service.”

In Washington DC, Uber has faced off with taxi drivers over whether they can use the UberPOOL service to provide free taxi rides during peak traffic times.

Uber responded by offering drivers in Washington the use of its nimble cars, currently only available on demand, for public transport when they used UberPOOL.

The company also launched Ride Safe, a safety app to warn riders and drivers about incidents that happened while their vehicles were in use.

Uber is also involved in a legal battle with one of the United States’ biggest cities over its drivers, who are classified as independent contractors rather than employees.

At the moment, its drivers are not entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay or Social Security.

Uber denies it is making workers pay taxes to avoid the requirement of employers paying taxes when their workers do not work on company time.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick following the Toronto decision and hailed the company’s move in to Toronto last year.

Mr Trudeau said the focus needed to be on the services provided, not the drivers.

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