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Uber in Niagara

uber_niagara_taxiNiagara Regional Police are using the Highway Traffic Act to crack down on Uber drivers.

Uber, the popular ride-sharing app, allows users to submit their trip requirements and requests through the app and receive a ride from a registered Uber driver who uses their own car.  Proponents of Uber believe that it offers users a competitively priced service and flexible employment for drivers.

Uber commenced operations in November 2015, with St. Catharines resident Justin Burrows taking Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak on a ride in Niagara Falls.  Despite the initial enthusiasm, Uber may not comply with current law in all of the jurisdictions in which it operates.

Section 156 in Part IV of the Municipal Act, 2001 permits municipalities to regulate taxi services by administering licenses permitting a driver or a company to operate within the municipality.  Under section 11 of the Municipal Act, 2001 an upper tier municipality has the exclusive jurisdiction to issue such licenses.  In this case, the Niagara Region has exclusive jurisdiction, but has delegated its authority to the Niagara Region Police Board who issues such licences in the Niagara Region.

The Niagara Regional Police recently charged 20 Uber drivers.  In doing so, they have relied upon section 39.1 of the Highway Traffic Act which makes it an offence to use a vehicle that is not a bus and not licensed as a taxi to collect a passenger for the purposes of transportation for compensation.  Subsections of 39.1 also makes it an offence to allow your vehicle to be used by someone that your know or suspect will be using it to collect passengers for compensation, or to arrange or offer to arrange for a passenger to be picked up by a vehicle and transported for compensation by a vehicle that is not a licensed taxi or a bus. Drivers convicted of an offence under section 39.1 will be required to pay a fine ranging between $300 and $20,000.  It is alleged that the Uber drivers charged in the Niagara Region require but do not have a licence.

Despite it’s questionable legal status, Uber remains a popular method of transportation. Provisions in Highway Traffic Act permit the Provincial Government to create exemptions to the licensing requirement for taxis.  Municipalities can also alter their own bylaws on license requirements for taxi services.   It is possible then, that in the future Uber could be a regulated service in Niagara. For now, the Niagara Regional Police caution users against using unlicensed taxis or ride-sharing services such as Uber, as they may present risks due to possibly unknown driver background, vehicle conditions, and insurance considerations.

Daniel & Partners LLP has a dedicated municipal law practice.  We have experience with by-law development, enforcement and defence within the Niagara Region and beyond. If you are concerned about the enforcement of bylaws related to taxi services or have been charged with a Highway Traffic Act or bylaw offence and require assistance, contact our office.  Our experienced team can provide advice and assistance on all issues concerning municipal bylaws, enforcement and defence.

Blog post written by Karen Shedden, NCA Candidate

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