It’s funny what a tweet can bring.
Even though the idea of a municipally owned ride-sharing platform never made it to the floor of executive committee at Regina City Hall, a discussion has surfaced about the viability of such an option based on a social media post of mine. Predictably this has led to accusations of an anti-choice and anti-business agenda by yours truly. Others have said this statement sends a bad signal to prospective entrepreneurs, despite the fact that ride sharing regulations have been steered by two multi-national corporations, Uber and Lyft.
I for one would welcome a homegrown alternative — public or private — and would certainly encourage the entry of a ride sharing platform that provides better conditions for drivers than what is offered by the existing taxi brokerages and ride-sharing companies — especially if the alternative keeps its money in Saskatchewan and makes transportation more affordable. The canned talking points delivered by Lyft’s spokesperson at committee suggest that it has no genuine interest in Regina, other than generating profit for export.
Claims that some members of council are standing in the way of progress and the wishes of residents is also worthy of scrutiny. It took the provincial government years after Uber’s entry to Canada before adapting regulations to allow for ride-sharing in Saskatchewan. It’s been two months since cities were given the green light to craft bylaws enabling companies to operate in our municipality. The city consulted with the industry, polled residents, and did its research during this period. Rules will likely be in place by the end of February and, I hope, before major cities like Vancouver.
Council members exercised due diligence by asking for clarification on safety measures, licensing requirements, accessibility levies, passenger rights, and other regulations that cities elsewhere in Canada have either considered or adopted. Put another way, we’re doing our job.
Residents should expect council to ask critical questions, and not simply yield to some of the most powerful transportation lobbyists in the world. This happened in 2017, when the then-premier tweeted the talking points delivered to provincial and municipal politicians by Uber. A careful review of that company’s reading list would have revealed that ride-sharing doesn’t offer a silver bullet solution to impaired driving, as one example, or other transportation woes. Keep in mind that these companies threaten to leave markets that introduce even a semblance of rules they deem unfavorable. Ask the cities of Austin, Tex., or London, Ont. This is where alternative platforms come in.
Do I want to see new, and innovative transportation options in Regina? Absolutely, and ride-sharing is part of this advance. But residents should expect their elected representatives to carefully consider policy options and recognize that what is best for Uber and Lyft isn’t always the best thing for Regina. Let’s put together a ride-sharing bylaw in a timely fashion, but on our own terms. That’s what other cities are doing, so why not here?