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Edmonton's TappCar plans to offer rides to Winnipeggers next month

"People in Winnipeg deserve fast, safe, legal and affordable ways to get around their great city," Tappcar spokesman Pascal Ryffel said. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

"People in Winnipeg deserve fast, safe, legal and affordable ways to get around their great city," Tappcar spokesman Pascal Ryffel said. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2018 (211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg may be getting ride-hailing service after all, but not from major players Uber or Lyft.

TappCar, an upstart Canadian firm out of Edmonton, announced it will be begin service here March 2.

"People in Winnipeg deserve fast, safe, legal and affordable ways to get around their great city," company spokesman Pascal Ryffel said during an impromptu press conference across from city hall Monday.

With ride-hailing services, customers typically use a smartphone app to arrange a ride in a privately owned vehicle. In Edmonton, Tappcar allows customers to order a car using an app available for Apple or Android, or on the Tappcar website, or by telephone.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2018 (211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg may be getting ride-hailing service after all, but not from major players Uber or Lyft.

TappCar, an upstart Canadian firm out of Edmonton, announced it will be begin service here March 2.

"People in Winnipeg deserve fast, safe, legal and affordable ways to get around their great city," company spokesman Pascal Ryffel said during an impromptu press conference across from city hall Monday.

With ride-hailing services, customers typically use a smartphone app to arrange a ride in a privately owned vehicle. In Edmonton, Tappcar allows customers to order a car using an app available for Apple or Android, or on the Tappcar website, or by telephone.

TappCar has started advertising for drivers on website indeed.com. Drivers can make up to $5,000 a month, the ad says.

TappCar employs 250 drivers in Edmonton, where it started in 2016. Uber also operates in Edmonton, which was the first city in Canada to legalize ride-hailing services.

Ryffel said the number of drivers in Winnipeg will depend on demand and the mix of part-time and full-time drivers. "You make your own schedule and your own hours!" the ad says.

The company has already received a flurry of applications. "We've put on one small ad so far and I think we've had something like 65 applications (as of Monday morning)," Ryffel said. "So that's a really great start and we'll see how it goes from there."

Unclear if company has applied for licence

City council and the city administration have been first-rate in expediting approval of the service, Ryffel said, although he hesitated when asked if TappCar is fully approved to operate in Winnipeg.

"I'm going to say yes," he said.

However, comments from the city's administration suggest TappCar's announcement may be premature.

Felicia Wiltshire, the city’s director of customer services and communications, would not confirm if TappCar had applied for a dispatch licence. She added that firms wanting to provide ride-hailing services must submit their applications to the Winnipeg Parking Authority by Feb. 21, otherwise the WPA cannot guarantee a company will be processed in time to begin operations by March 2.

Ride-hailing companies have to pay a $2,000-to-$50,000 dispatcher’s fee, depending on the number of vehicles in their fleet. They also have to pay a three per cent per ride levy, with the funds directed to a driver-safety campaign.

But Mayor Brian Bowman, a major backer of ride-sharing, heralded the announcement.

"This is great news for all those Winnipeggers who have wanted choice in the marketplace for many, many years. I hope that it’s the beginning of even more choice in the marketplace," Bowman said.

TappCar, an upstart Canadian firm out of Edmonton, announced it will be begin service here March 2. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

TappCar, an upstart Canadian firm out of Edmonton, announced it will be begin service here March 2. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)

"Today is a significant day. It’s a significant announcement to hear that we have our first entry into the marketplace under the new rules."

Representatives of the taxi industry questioned safety with ride-sharing services.

"We recognize there's going to be a different environment in which we operate in respect to TappCar and other fads," said Scott McFadyen, taxi industry spokesman who represents Winnipeg's two dominant cab companies, Duffy's and Unicity.

"We want the public to know we're safer. We're full-time professional drivers, were not part-time amateurs. We have panic buttons and shields (in vehicles) and have taken courses on safety and assisting the disabled."

He added that taxis are available at all hours, including at four in the morning at minus-35 degree temperatures. "We drive in all conditions, at all times, and at a regulated price," he said.

Edmonton drivers unionized

What discouraged major players Uber and Lyft from opening in Winnipeg is Manitoba Public Insurance's coverage plan for ride-hailing drivers. To operate at any time of day amounts to a 20 per cent premium above the all-purpose insurance rate. Uber and Lyft said that is too steep and they will pass on the Manitoba market.

When TappCar heard that, Ryffel said the company "decided it was a good opportunity for us to come in and work within the rules here."  Ryffel said bigger players sometimes try to dictate conditions — but smaller companies such as TappCar seek to work with a city's existing rules.

TappCar is operating only in Edmonton so far. It pulled back from operations in Calgary about a year ago. Ryffel said the timing was bad with Calgary in an economic downturn because of slumping oil prices.

TappCar drivers are required to be 18 or older, have a valid licence, a car newer than 10 years old, a clear criminal record check and a driver abstract obtained within 90 days of registration.

TappCar's Edmonton drivers have a collective bargaining agreement under the Teamsters union.

"We're currently in negotiations on that front" for its Winnipeg drivers, Ryffel said. "We believe at the end of the day if you have happy drivers you have happy customers."

Bowman is confident more ride-hailing services will enter the market.

"I’m hoping that by having more competition in the marketplace, we’ll see improvements in the existing taxicab service, and that’s something I’ve heard from a lot of Winnipeggers, that they see room for improvement in terms of the existing taxi service here in Winnipeg."

Ryffel repeated the message several times that TappCar is a Canadian firm, meaning "money is reinvested in Canada."

Some things still have to be worked out. TappCar puts magnetized decals on its cars to show its brand. Ryffel didn't know whether the city administration will allow that.

"We prefer decals just for safety issue. Some people may be reluctant to get into unmarked cars," he said.

— with files from Aldo Santin  

 bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Bill Redekop

Bill Redekop
Rural Reporter

Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues since 2001.

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Updated on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 5:24 PM CST: Adds quotes, text, images.

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