Regina Leader Post
February 5, 2019
The first official ride share trip in Saskatchewan took place in Saskatoon on Tuesday afternoon, kicking off the service for the province as the Uber app went live.
“It was nice to be the first ride in a ride share in Saskatoon,” Joe Hargrave, the minister responsible for SGI said in Saskatoon’s city hall after being dropped off just outside the front door.
The ride-sharing giant Uber is the first to roll into the Saskatoon market after months of discussion led to legislation in the late months of 2018 that paved the way for ride share regulations in Saskatchewan. Provincial officials consulted with groups including police services in Saskatchewan and Mothers Against Drunk Driving before finalizing the legislation.
And according to Uber business manager Michael van Hemmen, this is the fastest he’s seen a province and a city go from looking at bringing in ride sharing services to laying the legal groundwork to have them available.
“We went from the province introducing legislation this past spring, less than a year ago, to already having regulations completed and cities passing bylaws in like 10 months,” van Hemmen said.
The Uber app and service is being billed as a more efficient and affordable way to navigate the city for those who cannot or don’t wish to drive. For people with the app, all you have to do is add a credit card or PayPal account to the app, and when you use it to call a vehicle to come pick you up it will charge the appropriate cost through the app.
A news release given out by Uber Canada listed cost estimates for rides in Saskatoon, with a ride from University of Saskatchewan residences to the downtown core at $10 to $12 and a trip from Forest Grove to the SaskTel Centre at $19 to $21 as a couple of examples.
Hargrave said that he felt the province did a good job putting new ride share services on equal footing with existing taxi companies, who are the logical competitors for businesses like Uber.
“We think we’ve come very close to making it an even playing field,” he said, noting that part of the provincial regulations mean Uber drivers are required to have had a Canadian driver’s licence for two years, while taxi companies don’t have that stipulation for drivers.
The Uber vehicle that dropped Hargrave and van Hemmen off at city hall — with a small logo visible on one of the bottom corners of the windshield — was driven by MADD Canada regional manager Michelle Okere. For Okere, the addition of ride sharing services to Saskatchewan gives people other opportunities to get home at the end of the day and will hopefully help reduce incidents of impaired driving.
“What it comes down to is having safe, reliable, convenient options,” Okere said.
Van Hemmen said there were “dozens” of drivers ready in Saskatoon when the service went live on Tuesday, though only about five were visible on the app right after it became available.
But he also said he hoped Saskatchewan’s recent success in getting ride sharing legislation would inspire other nearby markets like Winnipeg to do the same.
“Ridesharing is another choice that provides more options, and is able to provide a safe alternative to driving,” van Hemmen said.