SGI says there are about 500 active ride-share drivers in Saskatoon and area
PHIL TANK, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX Updated: July 10, 2019
The leader of the union representing Saskatoon cab drivers says they are feeling the effects of ride sharing “big time,” particularly on nights and weekends.
Malik Umar Draz, president of United Steelworkers Local 2014, which represents more than 400 city cabbies, said in an interview that the new competition is definitely hurting the taxi industry.
Saskatoon city council approved ride sharing regulations in December and ride-sharing giant Uber started operating in February.
“I see the big difference, especially for the night drivers and on the weekend,” Draz said. “Big time, big time.”
Draz said he did not have statistics to show the change.
City hall recognizes four companies offering ride-sharing services in Saskatoon: Uber, RideX, Riide-hail and Rel8Well Travel Inc. City staff are studying the changes prompted by ride sharing.
Saskatchewan Government Insurance spokesman Tyler McMurchy said as of Monday there were 478 active ride-share drivers in Saskatoon and another 22 in nearby communities.
In an email, Uber Canada spokesman Josh McConnell said there is “ongoing excitement” for ride sharing in Saskatoon, but added Uber does not release information on specific markets.
Around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, eight vehicles were registering in Saskatoon on the Uber smartphone app.
A spokeswoman for Lyft, perhaps the second best-known ride-sharing company after Uber, said the company has not yet set a date for starting operations.
Rel8Well touts itself as the only ride-sharing company with an office in Saskatoon, on College Drive. The company was launched March 15 in Saskatoon after a pilot project test in Ghana, Africa, according to Rel8Well’s director of research and development, Daniel Amoah.
Amoah said the company has 10 drivers, almost all of whom also drive for Uber, and has so far delivered 24 trips.
“Not lots of people know about us right now,” Amoah said, adding that the company hopes to fill a gap by operating with slim margins: Rides are 80 cents to $3 cheaper than Uber per trip, and drivers are paid 50 cents to a dollar more per trip.
Amoah invited potential passengers to download the app and compare prices.
Carlo Triolo, manager of The United Group taxi company, declined to speak to The StarPhoenix about the impact of ride sharing.
Draz said cabbies have been told by United that they will have their licences deactivated if they are found to be driving for ride-sharing companies.
City council passed new rules in April to allow for more flexible service by taxis to meet peak demand periods, but Triolo has said United would not participate in the enterprise licence program.
The Saskatoon Airport Authority announced in June that ride-share vehicles would be accommodated with a spot to allow pickup and drop-off of passengers at the terminal. Draz noted that ride-sharing vehicles for all authorized companies can drop off and pick up passengers, while United has the exclusive contract for taxis.
Draz said his membership would like all taxis to be able to serve the airport.
“To me, it’s not fair and it’s not a level playing field.”
C.J. Dushinski, the airport authority’s vice-president of business development and service quality, said in an email that taxi services at the airport are being reviewed and a format to allow all taxis is being considered.
The Saskatchewan Taxi Cab Association could not be reached for comment.