On November 30th, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that legislation was put in place to allow for ridesharing services to operate within the province through ‘The Vehicles for Hire Act’. Ridesharing services provided by companies such as Uber or Lyft allow for users to use a digital platform or app in which to set up pre-arranged transportation.
Ridesharing companies are required to provide written evidence of a motor vehicle liability insurance policy with a minimum limit of $1 million and must be insured under the Automobile Accident Insurance Act. Drivers will also be required to have a mandatory criminal record check and a prescribed driver’s license class which will apply to ridesharing company drivers, taxis and limousines.
Having the ability to utilize these services is another step in the fight against impaired driving within the province. “Saskatchewan people have told us this will provide another option for them to get home safely,” Joe Hargrave, Minister responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), said.
Individual municipalities will set bylaws to govern the ridesharing companies within their own town or city. Following the announcement, the City of Martensville immediately went to work to begin drafting items for a bylaw that would allow for transportation network companies to operate within the community. “We hope to be one of the firsts that actually have something available once everything is finalized with the province in respect to insurance,” Dillon Shewchuk, City of Martensville Community and Economic Manager, explained. Shewchuk believes that Martensville will be in a prime position for the ridesharing companies due to its close proximity to Saskatoon. “These companies have already expressed interest in the largest city in the province. They want to be available there first. Our hope is to have a bylaw that is equal or better than Saskatoon does because we really want to encourage the industry to come here.”
Martensville administration has already gathered information from the community, with 75% of those surveyed stating that if regulations changed and permitted the ridesharing companies, they would take advantage of the service. In addition 86% indicated that the services would enhance transportation within the region and 83% saw it as a benefit to the local economy. Those that have previously used the service in another city noted that they have had excellent or good experiences in respect to overall service, price, response time, cost and overall impression. A total of 30% of survey responses reflected apprehension, with personal safety being their number one concern. “Based on the surveying, people seem to welcome the idea of the service. They see it as an enhancement to the regional economy, they see it as an enhancement to transportation service and it will make things a little easier to get around in the area.
In regards to taxi companies operating within the City, Shewchuk noted that there are plans to revise a portion of the taxi provisions to make it easier for them. “The long challenge here is that there hasn’t been enough local demand to warrant a full time dedicated taxi. If anything, I think that this might take some pressure of off the companies that are already established who want to provide service in transportation, but right now they have to go full taxi. With these modifications, they would have something in between. They can provide those types of transportation services on a part time basis, or an on demand basis without making that full commitment to running a taxi,” Shewchuk added.
The City of Martensville is working with the City of Saskatoon with hopes of ensuring that there would be no barriers between centres when it comes to the ridesharing vehicles, giving them the ability to move freely among the centres. “We are going to do our best to bring something forward as soon as possible that would hopefully encourage these services to eventually establish here.”