KPMG policy paper suggests many prefer Uber to taxi industry

Many Ottawa residents feel they are better served by services such as Uber than they are by the traditional taxi industry, according to a policy option paper the city released Wednesday.

The paper is part of the city’s ongoing review of the taxi and limousine industry and was prepared by KPMG after public and stakeholder consultation.

The paper outlines three strategies the city could use in the future: implementing new concepts to the current strategy; establishing a new licensing category; and expanding the industry to allow competition and reduce costs.

The first option would “seek to implement key features of an app-based service model such as the Uber service, within the existing taxi industry,” according to the paper.

These features could include expanding existing taxi apps to include driver rating and credit card payment features, and dispatching the closest vehicle to improve wait times.

The paper said many cities across North America are considering the second option, which would see the city set up a separate licensing structure for Uber and other ride-sharing services. While the licence would have to recognize Uber’s “positive aspects,” it would require drivers to undergo a screening process and would not allow them to be flagged down by riders or use taxi stands. The licensing strategy is seen as a way to “level the playing field” with the taxi industry, the paper said.

The third strategy, to expand the industry and allow more competition, would scrap the current limits on the number of plates and “would eliminate the need to lease a plate, or to buy a plate.”

The strategy, however, would require “strong regulation” to keep quality standards high and might also eliminate the value linked to transferring taxi plates, something the paper concedes would not be popular with cab drivers.

Public safety, accessibility and consumer protection remain key issues to consider as the city decides on its strategy, the paper said.

The public will have an opportunity for further input during webinars in English on Nov. 24 and in French on Nov. 25. Both two-hour webinars will begin at 6 p.m. and registration is available on the city’s website.

The city will accept comments on the paper until Nov. 30. The final report will be completed in December and presented to the community and protective services committee.