Taxi-Uber showdown looms at city hall

Ottawa cabbies will finally get a glimpse of their future at a special meeting April 7.

Coun. Diane Deans has called a special community and protective services meeting that day to debate the results of the city’s controversial taxi bylaw review.

It’s expected to reimagine Ottawa’s taxi industry, which has been seething since ride share company Uber joined the fray in 2014.

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Offering rides through Uber is technically illegal right now. To date, bylaw officers have laid 174 charges against 78 drivers.

Traditional taxi drivers have held protests and rallies against the app-based company, which they say has had a massive impact on business.

At the same time, an unresolved contract dispute between dispatcher Coventry Connections and Airport Taxi drivers has added insult to injury. That issue erupted into noisy and sometimes violent protests last summer.

In light of the turmoil, Mayor Jim Watson expedited the city’s bylaw review by several months in August, asking staff to have studies in hand by the end of 2015. The final recommendations were to be released later this month.

Staff will hit that deadline with only a few hours to spare according to local taxi union president Amrik Singh, who said the report will be released March 31 at 4 p.m.

A city-commissioned KPMG study proposed several policy options in November. Those include adding Uber-style app elements to the traditional taxi industry, establishing a new licensing category for “transportation network companies” like Uber, and scrapping taxi plate limits.

Mr. Watson said he wants to find a “fair compromise” for both industries.

This article originally appeared on on March 15.

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