North Bay City Councillor Marcus Tignanelli is sharing correspondence received from the COO of Uride, Skye Volpi.

Volpi confirms he sent the same email to every city councillor in North Bay, outlining “Uride’s willingness to work alongside the city and provide service in North Bay.”

Tignanelli posted in the North Bay Needs Ride Share! Facebook group, whose membership has grown to over 2,100, “It’s a very exciting time to be welcoming a new transportation model to our city! Looking forward to collaborating with Uride to make this once seemingly impossible dream into a reality! Below is an email from Uride COO containing an abundance of information. From safety to the local economy! Have yourself a read! Very excited to grow North Bay and welcome another new business to our City!”

Here are some highlights from that email as shared in the group:

  • Uride was founded in Thunder Bay approximately two years ago with the goal of eliminating driving under the influence. Since then, Uride has become much more than a service that catered almost exclusively to bar-goers.
  • Today, its customers use the service to go to work, buy groceries, go for medical appointments and even to run errands. The COO says the Thunder Bay community was relieved with the arrival of the service, citing the lack of existing transportation options, which resulted in exorbitant transportation rates and excessively long wait times.
  • In fall 2018, Uride launched in Chatham-Kent and, a few months after that, in Sudbury. Volpi says Uride has coordinated with city officials in each of these markets to ensure that the service is “regulated, safe and so each city’s interests are being represented in our business.”
  • Volpi adds, “With our experience of three operating markets, with two more in the process of being launched, we would love to see North Bay as an exciting new chapter in Uride’s journey.”

Drivers on the Uride platform are required to submit the following documentation prior to being approved to operate:

  • Driver’s licence (3+ years driving experience)
  • Driver abstract (6 demerit points or less)
  • Proof of work eligibility
  • Enhanced “Level 2” criminal background check
  • Vehicle ownership (2009 model year or later)
  • Vehicle mileage (no vehicles over 250,000 km)
  • Personal vehicle insurance
  • Vehicle safety certificate

The COO says, “Each of these documents must be active or requested less than 30 days prior to applying to drive on our platform. They must be updated annually. Uride pulls Background Checks and Driver Abstracts for drivers to ensure their authenticity.

“Drivers on the Uride platform are insured through a blanket fleet policy. The vehicle and its occupants are covered for up to $2 million in [third-party] liability coverage. Coverage varies based on the different stages of a ride the driver is in and is only in effect when the driver in online and available on our platform. This is what grants us significant flexibility when it comes to having more or [fewer] drivers on the platform.”

Uride mandates all registered vehicles must have decals to show that they are authorized to operate on the Uride platform. Passengers are able to track their assigned driver in real-time allowing them to prepare in anticipation for the driver’s arrival. As opposed to taxis, passengers are able to see detailed information about their assigned driver prior to being picked up. This includes:

  • Driver’s name
  • Profile photo
  • Vehicle make, model, colour and licence plate number

From the email: “Following the completion of a trip, the passenger receives a receipt via email including the above details and the exact route travelled and then passengers have the ability to rate drivers following the completion of their ride through our app. These reviews are consistently monitored in order to keep drivers accountable and to ensure that drivers on the platform are providing quality customer service.

“All riders require a credit card and smartphone to use our service. As we do not accept cash, there is very little likelihood of muggings or thefts, a common concern in the taxi industry. Uride takes every precaution to ensure the safety of both our customers and drivers.”

On existing transportation services:

In the communities where we currently operate, existing taxi services had previously failed to cater to the overwhelming demand for private transportation, especially during peak times. Passengers would on many occasions experience wait times in excess of an hour on weekend nights, sometimes in -30 degrees Celsius. Under many circumstances, people were unable to get a safe ride home from high traffic areas, as it is common for someone else to “steal” a taxi that was reserved for another passenger. The standard taxi model has limitations that do not accommodate for massive fluctuations in demand.

While the presence of a service like Uride may cause concern to local taxi services, they should be aware that there are certain technological barriers that create a need for their services, despite the presence of a ridesharing company. In order to use our service, ride requests must be made exclusively through our app, which requires a smartphone and credit card. In addition, one does not simply hail a Uride like a traditional taxi. This significantly reduces our potential customer pool in each city we operate in, and ensures that there still ample opportunity from a business perspective for taxis to operate.

The concept of ridesharing has become a hot topic in North Bay in the past few weeks. North Bay Police Board Chair Dennis O’Connor said following Tuesday’s meeting, “The bylaw doesn’t cover rideshare, just taxis.”

O’Connor notes that rideshare is appearing in many Ontario and Canadian communities and the local board began studying the matter about a year ago. He says the board has hired the consulting firm BMA from Hamilton which specializes in taxi bylaws. The board is waiting for a follow-up report from BMA after getting an initial report a while back. O’Connor says it’s the board’s goal to encompass everyone under the bylaw.

O’Connor adds, although the board can’t stop rideshare from coming to North Bay, he’s reminding everyone that “we’re going to come out with a bylaw and that might affect someone who’s just starting up a program.”

U-Need-A-Cab owner John Strang attended the regular meeting of council Tuesday but did not wish to comment on the rideshare developments.