Uber prices could rise in Canada amid crackdown on the ride-hailing app

The day after the Toronto city council approved an all-out freeze on Uber’s growth in the city, the ride-hailing app’s representatives are warning of higher prices and increased wait times.

Toronto council voted Tuesday to extend a motion to freeze Uber’s growth by seven years. As part of the vote, new drivers seeking licences would have to submit fingerprints before receiving a vehicle registration. This will eliminate drivers working the public transportation black-cab trade in the city.

Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, reacted to the council’s vote in a Facebook post. “I admire the drive of the city’s progressive government to maintain public safety and to protect jobs for anyone who contributes to this economic wealth creation,” he wrote. “What this means for a typical Uber ride in Toronto is higher prices and longer wait times as we work through a tool set that will give our drivers ample notice to prepare for the move from the black-car system.”

Justin Vasey, Uber’s general manager for Toronto, added in a statement to CityLab: “The proposed change is expected to create 60,000 fewer rides for every year that the new framework is in place. We have concerns about the public safety implications of reduced capacity and higher prices will squeeze drivers who are already struggling to cover their living costs.”

Uber Canada spokeswoman Susie Heath wrote in an email that her company’s prices will be up to 18 percent higher in 2019. Heath wrote that for an UberX trip, the normal price for the average ride might go up to around $13.75 from about $12.25. UberX is Uber’s lowest-cost ride option, often representing one of the main options when booking an Uber with a credit card. Uber will still have its cheapest ride option, UberX.

The average wait time for an UberX ride in Toronto could increase to about 12 minutes, compared with the 10 minutes most Uber users would normally experience. UberTaxi, the company’s premium service, should not experience the same price increases as UberX rides. UberTaxi typically costs around $10 for a 15-minute ride.

Uber’s opposition to the addition of new drivers in Toronto centers on its assertion that expanding the number of drivers in the city will result in increased congestion and pollution. Uber Canada’s president, Keith Waryas, wrote a blog post Monday, warning that “car ownership is declining as demand for share grows, while existing on-demand vehicle supply is growing.”

Uber is also concerned that the fingerprint requirements may not be foolproof. Waryas argued that this would violate a previous court decision that argued fingerprinting “comprehensively” records a person’s DNA, which it says is a “unique biological mark that would be impossible to remove.” The court ruled that drivers in Toronto would be arrested only if they had committed a serious crime or had been convicted before they obtained their drivers’ licence.

Waryas wrote that fingerprinting drivers “does not have any inherent safety benefit, is likely to be inefficient, and would mean that too many license holders could potentially overstate their criminal histories.”

Susan Shaheen, the director of Transportation Law and Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, told Wired that neither proposition is possible with new fingerprinting, which would require a person’s face to be captured by a camera that is connected to the web.

“The debate has been that you need fingerprinting to distinguish between bad actors and legitimate people,” Shaheen told Wired. “Not even Uber thinks that’s true.”

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