Saint John working to have ride-sharing bylaw by next year

·3 min read

Saint John city council plans to have a ride-sharing regulation bylaw ready by the end of this year to implement next year.

The province passed an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act in December to allow ride-sharing companies to operate, but each municipality must have bylaws regulating the service before it can be offered.

Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft allow customers to hail rides using a mobile app, and the drivers are employed as independent contractors who use their own cars and get a cut of the total fare, plus tips.

Coun. Greg Norton asked council to vote to "immediately" have a bylaw in place to pave the way for ride-sharing to come to Saint John. After 30 minutes of discussion, the motion passed but only after the word "immediately" was removed.

Two councillors voted against the motion even with the amendment.

Not about the big apps

Norton said his motion "is not about Uber and Lyft."

"The chances of Uber and Lyft coming into the city of Saint John, I would say, are limited, if any at all," he told council Monday night.

"But what we do have is, when we create this type of bylaw is, we have the opportunity for home-grown types of ride-sharing industries and businesses to pop up."

Norton said this proposal isn't to intentionally create competition for the taxi industry, but "competition is good."

A few councillors voiced their objections for exactly this reason.

Deputy Mayor Shirey McAlary said the timing is not right, considering the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our taxi drivers, our taxi owners in our city are having a desperate time," she said. "I just feel to put more competition on our local taxi businesses is not something that I really think we should do at this time."

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Coun. Blake Armstrong, who owns several bars in the city's uptown, was also opposed.

"People have no idea how decimated the industry has been in Saint John, including bars and restaurants," he said.

Norton said people he spoke to from the restaurant sector are onside.

Coun. David Hickey suggested the removal of the word immediate, because he said sooner or later ride-sharing would be beneficial for the city.

Timing matters

City manager John Collin told council that staff have not looked at ride-sharing in detail. He said public consultation and a review of the impact on the city's businesses will be done before any bylaw is passed.

"From a staff point of view, I don't believe that there's any resistance to the notion of exploring ride-share and trying to put it into our community," Collin said. "It is a best practice within communities," he said.

"This is something where we should do public consultation, and this is something that has significant liabilities, and therefore we simply cannot copy and paste someone else's bylaw."

He said the bylaw could be passed by early 2022.