Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
May 18, 2024
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News
January 16, 2024
Volume 194 No. 3

U-Turn: Council approves subsidy for Uride

<p>URide Canada Facebook</p>
URide Canada Facebook

A wage subsidy plan for Uride and added support for beleaguered taxi companies is now in the works.

Council voted to reconsider then to approve the subsidy plan it had denied at an earlier sitting.

Councillor John Hirsch said there was a concern around the horseshoe that Council “had flushed the baby with the bathwater” last month when the original motion failed passage.

Since that time, Council has heard from proponents of Uride as well taxi companies encouraging them to revisit the motion. A number of local businesses and Uride users have also advocated for the service, pointing out that both visitors and locals make good use of Uride’s app-based booking process, cashless payment option and ability to grade drivers and vehicles.

MAT to fund transportation subsidies

The municipality will now extend a $30,000 wage subsidy to the Canadian ride-sharing company. Also approved is an amendment that supports local taxi companies struggling to stay in business.

The motion directs staff to review the local fare schedule and bylaws to modernize both and improve conditions for operating a vehicle-for-hire business in Prince Edward County.

Council also asked staff to develop a micro-granting program with a maximum funding envelope of $40,000, funded through Municipal Accommodations Tax revenue, to support the taxi sector in developing solutions to local transportation challenges. Terms and conditions will be presented to Council as part of the Tourism Management Plan early this year.

Neither envelope comes directly from municipal coffers. The taxi subsidy comes from the MAT while the Uride wage subsidy is a 50/50 mix of MAT funds and funding from tourism industry partners Visit The County and Stay PEC. Both of these organizations receive a portion of MAT funds.

The Taxi Guy’s Rick Marshall highlighted severe local and industry obstacles to operation. The seasonal feast-or-famine nature of business in the County, high fuel costs, geography, and, above all, skyrocketing insurance costs have made owning a taxi cab company a losing proposition.

He noted the cost of adding one new driver without commercial experience to his insurance policy costs $7,500 a year.

“That’s before I pump a litre of gas or change a tire on one of my vehicles,” he said.

APP driven service enjoyed by many

Among the proponents for the Uride subsidy were the company’s Regional Operations Manager Vince Scott and local resident Gary Mooney.

Mr. Scott offered an overview on the local pilot project, both its efficiencies and areas where it could be improved. He advocated for both the $30,000 wage subsidy as well as assistance for others in the private transportation industry.

Mr. Mooney argued for the retention of Uride as part of the County’s transit strategy and pointed out there are major differences between the ridesharing service and local taxi companies.

“Using a smartphone app, the customer can order a ride (perhaps in advance), monitor the vehicle’s location on a map, and pay in advance by credit card. Vehicles are clean and in good repair. Both driver and passenger rate each other, encouraging good behaviour.”

In Mr. Mooney’s estimation, Uride covers rural areas remote from Picton not serviced well by the two remaining licensed taxi companies and covers a share of the busy tourist season taxi companies cannot manage alone.

During debate, it was clear councillors were both anxious to help solve transportation issues in Prince Edward County and ensure public safety by having multiple options for getting home after a night of celebration. Driving Under the Influence charges laid by Prince Edward OPP more than doubled the seven year average in 2023.

“If you look at community crime profiles, in Belleville they might be opioid addiction and burglary. In Prince Edward County, our two main baskets are domestic abuse and impaired driving,” Councillor Bill Roberts noted sombrely.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 3 edition of The Picton Gazette
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