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Oshawa’s Uber problem

(Cartoon by George Longley)

It’s sometimes said one must embrace the future, or get left behind.

Over the past few years, ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have arrived on the market in Oshawa, and have become increasingly popular.

This is no different from most large urban municipalities in Canada.

The problem is, under the city’s taxi cab bylaw, these types of companies are essentially illegal.

Anyone working as an Uber or Lyft driver in the city potentially faces a $300 fine under the current rules.

It proves to be a rather difficult bylaw to enforce, and those using these companies probably don’t even know they are doing something that is technically illegal in Oshawa.

The appeal of Uber and Lyft is apparent – it’s cheaper and most times faster than hailing a cab.

But the crux of the problem goes further than that.

Oshawa’s taxi companies are heavily regulated, and must abide by the law or face heavy fines.

The city also currently limits the number of taxi plates it hands out to one per every 1,500 residents.

Ridesharing companies, while not permitted to do business here, have not been playing by these rules, a fact noted several times by Mayor Dan Carter.

While those who support a free market may say competition is good for the consumer, it’s easy to understand the frustration of taxi company operators and drivers.

The city is in the midst of figuring out how to deal with the problem.

The first option brought forward at a recent committee meeting is to modernize the city’s bylaw to allow Uber and Lyft to operate in the city alongside taxis.

The other would continue with the status quo, which would, in theory, leave ridesharing companies in the dark. However, there isn’t much evidence to suggest Uber and Lyft wouldn’t continue to operate in the city.

As mentioned, Oshawa’s bylaw enforcement department only has so many resources and we can’t have city employees chasing down every car they think may have a driver in it.

It’s a balancing act that needs to be considered carefully by all those involved.