Prince Edward County may soon boast the rideshare program Uride. Prince Edward County Council received an informative deputation from Vince Scott, Regional Operations Manager of Uride during the last Committee of the Whole Meeting wherein Scott expressed to council his interest in exploring providing his rideshare program in the area.
Uride was founded in Thunder Bay in 2017 to help prevent impaired driving. Usually servicing small to mid-sized cities, the county would provide a unique opportunity for Uride, according to Scott, who also mentioned he was contacted several times by county residents inquiring about Uride coming to the area.
In his deputation to council, Scott emphasized the safety of his ridesharing program with all drivers being fully vetted. “We regard safety with the utmost importance,” said Scott.
He noted his curiosity about operating Uride in the county grew organically after having visited the area several times.
“Why the county? I love the county! I’m not from here, but I’ve visited a few times, camping at Sandbanks and it was a unique idea that came forward,” explained Scott. “We’ve had different people reach out, community members, and it’s kind of been a thought that lingered in my brain. We recognize county residents need different options. We fill the gaps that exist in the existing structures in cities.”
Scott also noted the county is not like their target populations, which will present some challenges to operating Uride.
“The county is not one of our target populations…The expansive geography with low density makes rideshare challenging….it can be a deterrent,” he stated.
Scott noted another challenge is that rideshare busy season is usually the winter, when snow burdened Canadians are less inclined to take to the streets walking or cycling. Conversely, the county’s busy season is well-known to be the summer.
“Rideshare is traditionally busier in the winter months,” said Scott.
As unique as having a rideshare program in a rural area like the county would be, Scott explained Uride itself is a unique company.
“What makes Uride unique? Flexibility for drivers. We have a hybrid model where drivers can pick certain shifts and work when they want for something what fits their life,” said Scott. “Another thing is the ability to have a large influx of drivers during peak periods…rush hours, Friday and Saturday nights…we’re not limited to the number of potential vehicles.”
Scott also pointed out that Uride employs a diverse range of drivers, from those with school-aged children to retirees.
Drawing on his experience owning a courier service, Councillor Bill McMahon questioned Scott about the possibility for open ended runs given the county’s expansive geography.
“Taking into mind the distances between some of the places in the county, do you not see some of the drivers having open ended runs, where they’re just stuck out at Long Point or something? I used to run a courier business and I understand open ended runs,” said McMahon.
Scott admitted this could be a challenging aspect of operating in the county.
“That’s why it is such a challenging opportunity,” said Scott. “ One of the nice pieces, though, is drivers enjoy longer trips.”
McMahon inquired further as to whether Uride drivers were in a gig position, to which Scott confirmed they would be.
Councillor Stewart Bailey inquired as to the licensing procedure for Uride drivers, noting he has experience as a taxi driver.
“Half a century ago in Toronto I had a cab drivers license and had to take a two day course to get that. Do your drivers have to be licensed in a similar way?” Bailey asked.
Scott noted licensing depends on the bylaws of the municipality in which Uride is operating.
“It depends on regional bylaws and how things operate, whether its an official license or internal training program,” said Scott. “We provide records, for example in Chatham Kent, Uride takes on the responsibility to ensure all documents and training and we provide that to the city for auditing so they can see who the drivers are and whether the vehicles are safetied etc.”
Scott also noted Uride provides coverage from liability for drivers and passengers.
Councillor Andreas Bolik brought up the recent declaration of the county as a living wage community and asked about the expected wage for drivers.
“The county has declared itself a living wage community, so what we probably don’t want to do is create a bunch of jobs where people are just hanging on by their fingernails. Can you expand on that?” asked Bolik.
Scott noted Uride endeavours to provide wages that “aren’t low.”
“We try to provide earnings for drivers that aren’t low. We do what we can to continually increase wages,” he explained. “Some of the things we do is we can sometimes offer guaranteed minimums. While it might be a slow night, we can guarantee you make a certain amount whether you have a ride or not.”
Mayor Steve Ferguson inquired as to how far along Uride is in determining the viability of operating in the county.
“A couple times you mentioned you’ve got to think this through, but you also are suggesting you’d like to work with staff,” said Ferguson. “Where are you with conversations with staff to try to determine the viability of this and the basis for a pilot project?
Scott noted they’re still just beginning stages
“We’re definitely in the beginning stages of what this could really look like, how we could make it work together,” said Scott.