Reaction mixed as ride-sharing service Uber launches in Halifax
HALIFAX -- Uber is officially available in Halifax.
The ride-sharing app went live at 1 p.m. on Thursday, but there are mixed feelings over Uber's arrival in what some see as an already oversaturated market.
Just before "go time" at 1 p.m., new Uber driver Gurmeet Randhawa was looking forward to hitting the road with a passenger onboard.
"It's really exciting because we have been waiting for a long time, so we've gone through many of the processes, driver's abstract, the police ratifications," said Randhawa.
Within 10 minutes of going live, Randhawa drove off to pick up his first customer.
Uber Canada says while they're thrilled to officially be in Halifax, they're encouraging riders to only travel for essential purposes during the pandemic.
"Ride-sharing is more important than ever in these times. There are lots of people that need to move for essential purposes, lots of people that don't have access to a vehicle, they could be essential workers, they could be residents that need to go to the pharmacy, that need to go get groceries and they now have access to a safe, affordable, reliable form of transporation," Uber Canada general manager Matthew Price said from Toronto.
The company has a no-mask, no-ride policy and both riders and drivers will have to confirm on the app that they're following all public health protocols before they enter the vehicle.
Uber wouldn't say how many drivers are on the road in Halifax, but as of Thursday afternoon, six drivers were active on the peninsula.
A bylaw change in the municipality on Nov. 1 allowed for ride-sharing companies to operate.
"Uber will pay, and this is based on the number of drivers that they have in their company, so it can range anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 annually," said Halifax Regional Municipality spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray.
But not everyone is in favour of a new transportation option in Halifax.
Taxi drivers are worried Uber will drive them out of business with their own ridership numbers down more than 60 per cent during the pandemic.
"Their morale is very low," said Darshan Virk of the United Cab Association of Halifax. "They know they are helpless, they know it's not their fault. All they can do is they can work 12, 16 hours a day. But there is no light at the end of the tunnel, as far as the Halifax taxi industry is concerned."
But for new Uber drivers like Randhawa, it's an exciting business opportunity, and he can't wait to see where this new road leads him.
Uber Canada says they have no plans of expanding in other Maritime cities just yet. They want to continue growing their business in the Halifax area first.