Uber ‘highly unlikely’ to come to Fort McMurray, company says

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Although Wood Buffalo now allows ride-sharing services to operate in the area, Uber says red tape and high costs for drivers make the service highly unlikely to operate in Fort McMurray.

Council for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo recently passed a new bylaw that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber to operate in Fort McMurray.

But Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang said in an email that while Uber was consulted in the development of its settlement, the company does not support the settlement.

“Unfortunately, the settlement comes with additional red tape, high costs for individual drivers, and privacy issues,” Rang wrote.

She said the decision to open in any region depends on market conditions and local regulations.

“With these terms in mind, it is highly unlikely that the platform will launch under current regulations,” Rang wrote.

The regulations require mandatory cameras in every vehicle, but Uber thinks it’s invasive to require personal vehicles and other Canadian cities not to require cameras for ride-sharing services, Rang said.

There are also two fees for drivers to get started, totaling $670, which could be a costly hurdle for new drivers, Rang said.

The municipality also requires Uber to have a physical office. But Rang said Uber offers 24/7 virtual support and having an office in every municipality is unrealistic.

Com. Funky Banjoko said Uber could partner with a local company to meet office requirements.

“I don’t see this as a big, big deal that would stop a big company like Uber,” Banjoko said.

In general, Banjoko said the municipality wants to reduce red tape, but the rules in place are aimed at ensuring quality service that will protect the safety of drivers and residents.

Banjoko said she thinks having cameras in vehicles is important for safety and that the fees the municipality charges new drivers are comparable to those in other major cities.

“I don’t think we are outrageous,” Banjoko said.

Banjoko said the requirements for taxi drivers and ride-sharing drivers are the same because the municipality wants a level playing field.

Funky Banjoko moved the original motion to revise the taxi bylaws. (Sent by Funky Banjoko)

Abdi Mursal, owner of YMM Rider, said he was relieved to hear that Uber is unlikely to come to the community as it launches a ride-sharing app in Fort McMurray.

“This is really good news for us as a small business,” Mursal said.

He said he agrees the regulations add a lot of cost to new drivers and said it can cost up to $3,000 with a rental vehicle license, installing a camera, vehicle inspection and repairs.

Cost has been a barrier to hiring part-time or casual employees, Mursal said.

Terena Gunderson, a 20-year Fort McMurray resident, said she didn’t feel safe riding taxis in the city and hoped Uber would start in the community.

She said she likes knowing who the driver is and having a GPS tracker.

“I know where they’re going, because I can watch it.”

“I never use a cab anywhere,” Gunderson said.

She added that she is in favor of having mandatory cameras for security, but she wants to see the regulations reworked so that ride-sharing companies operate in the area.

“I really hope Fort McMurray can adapt to the times, move on, and stop giving red tape to everything that wants to come to town,” Gunderson said.

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