Innisfil adopts Uber to combat ‘expensive’ public transit system
Amara McLaughlin, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 4, 2017 9:05PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 4, 2017 11:06PM EDT
While many Canadian cities have stalled implementing Uber over a heated debate about the controversial “Uber-ization” of transit, one Ontario town has embraced the ride-sharing service.
Innisfil is the first municipality across the country to adopt Uber to steer clear of “expensive” public transit systems.
“It was basically our quest to find an alternative system that’s not a bus, something that’s more cost effective, demand based,” said Paul Pentikainen, Innisfil’s town planner.
Uber provided a solution to Innisfail’s public transit problem, which Mayor Gord Wauchope said the town could not afford the $280,000 bill per single line, per year.
'Outside-the-box transit system'
Last month, Innisfil’s council approved the partnership to give its 36,000 residents guaranteed rates and rides at the touch of an app.
Fares will be set between $3 and $5, under the agreement and Innisfil will pay Uber the remainder of the balance.
This is expected to cost around $100,000 in the first year – a number that’s a far cry from the cost of a transit system, town officials say.
The global company serves as “the answer to an outside-the-box transit system,” Pentikainen told CTV News Toronto.
The service will officially launch on May 1 – allowing residents to take rides to major points of transportation, such as the town centre or the area GO Transit Station on Yonge Street.
For example, a trip to the closest GO bus stop on Yonge Street would cost $4.
Jeff Wilton is an Uber driver in neighbouring Barrie, Ont. He says being employed by the company gives him “access to have my own hours.”
He’s expecting to get a lot busier now that the neighbouring town of Innisfil has signed a deal with the ride-sharing service because he feels it’ll catch on.
'Uber is destroying the industry,' taxi owner says
But not everyone is on board with the new partnership.
The taxi industry and Uber have been butting heads for years.
Local taxi drivers are not immune to concerns about how the ride-sharing service’s discounted fares will affect their business.
“Uber is destroying the industry,” said Manjot Saini, owner of Innisfil’s family-run cab company, Global Taxi.
He said that cab drivers already pay higher insurance rates and parking fees at commercial spaces, and that it puts them in an unfair position in the industry.
“It's not fair to the cab company, to the drivers, to all the cabs around,” he stated.
While the town says it will still rely on the taxi industry for “accessibility” cabs, Saini added that's only a small portion of their business.
“My drivers will stick with me, but for how long?” Manjot Saini asked. “That’s the question because everyone needs to make money.”
Public transit upgrades 'wouldn't service everyone'
But a public transit system just didn’t make sense for the small town, Wauchope said.
“It wouldn’t service everyone in the town,” he explained. “Why should people pay a tax for something they don’t use?”
The town says Uber will provide and set up iPad stations at places like the local recreation centre so residents without smartphones can still use the app to get a ride home.