The Uber app. Photo: Charles Deluvio/Unslpash Credit: Charles Deluvio/Unslpash

The provincial government is making it easier to be a taxi or Uber driver, loosening the requirements to obtain the licence needed to be a driver for hire.

In a news release Thursday, titled “Province Reduces Burden on Ride Hailing Services,” the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal announced it’s “establishing a modernized, restricted Class 4 licence that no longer requires taxi or potential ride hail drivers to retake the road and knowledge tests.

“It will also reduce costs to drivers because the retests are no longer necessary. All other requirements for a Class 4, including a medical assessment, will remain,” the release said.

The restricted Class 4 will presumably still require drivers to be 18 years old and to have had their full Class 5 licence for a year.

The elimination of tests saves drivers $68, the release said. The changes come into effect immediately.

The current Class 4 licence, now called a “standard” Class 4 licence, will still be required for ambulance and small bus drivers (fewer than 24 passengers).

The move comes less than 48 hours after Halifax regional council passed bylaw amendments to legalize and regulate ride-hailing. Those amendments left the licence question open, requiring drivers to have whatever the province requires.

Uber, which has two lobbyists registered with the provincial government, told councillors earlier in the process that the Class 4 licence was a deal-breaker. The company wanted its drivers to be able to use a regular Class 5 licence.

The provincial government didn’t go that far, but it is “Exempting drivers from the additional testing will also simplify the licensing process of upgrading from a Class 5 to Class 4 restricted.”

There was speculation the provincial government was going to make these kinds of changes months ago, when it scheduled a news conference where Minister Lloyd Hines would make an announcement “regarding ride-hailing services.” That event was cancelled without a stated reason.

While the government made these changes for Uber, it doesn’t appear it made the ones Halifax regional council asked for.

In January, council passed a motion directing Mayor Mike Savage to write a letter to the provincial government asking for permission to charge companies like Uber a per-trip fee. As we reported last month:

That fee would be 25 cents per trip, charged to all TNCs. Twenty cents, proposed by staff, would pay for a new accessible taxi subsidy program and the staffing required to manage the new ride-hailing and taxi trip data. The other five cents, added by council, would go toward funding active transportation infrastructure, recognizing that ride-hailing has a tendency to increase the number of vehicles on the road.

Halifax is still waiting on a number of other requests for legislative change in the realm of transportation, including permissions to use the per-trip fee revenue to provide grants for accessible taxies, to lower all residential speed limits, to use neon green crosswalk signs, to increase fines for crosswalk violations, to increase parking fines, to use traffic signals for cyclists, and to implement legislation to prohibit drivers from dooring cyclists.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Vel, nice talking to you too. For many years I walked to work, but eventually ended up working for a company far from any housing, and my transportation options became 15 minute car ride, 60 minute bus ride or 2.5 hour walk.

  2. I remain confused about how so-called ride hailing services are anything other than a way to get around taxi licensing requirements. A taxi with an app is still a taxi. A taxi app that works in multiple cities is good for travellers, but it’s never been that hard to get a taxi – even an unlicensed one – at any airport. Yes, there are problems with taxi services, but services that use investor funds to undercut taxis are hardly the solution. Uber and Lyft are not sustainable at current rates, and drivers are underpaid. Sooner or later the companies must either collapse, or raise their rates.

  3. I am unhappy with anything that makes it possible for more cars to be on the road being made even easier. I don’t believe we need Uber or Lyft or any sort of ride-sharing service. I think we need better transit and more infrastructure that supports active forms of transportation. Unfortunately, the councilor for my district didn’t vote no – that’s a strike against him in the upcoming election. I meant to comment the other day when the earlier Uber article was posted. Very glad I got a second chance. Keep up the good work Halifax Examiner. I get such great value out of my subscription.

      1. I know some people will always need a car, so I will accept your point. However, it seems that cars are always prioritized over people using active forms of transportation. I don’t see anything much being done to make it easier for people to walk, cycle, or roll. Given that lack of physical activity (and the resulting health complications from that – obesity and diabetes to name just two) can have a very negative impact on one’s health and that we have seen how poor health can cause death when scary viruses ran rampant, I would like to see my elected representatives do more to encourage better health by lowering the priority given to cars.

        1. True, but the reality is that sometimes people need to get somewhere fast and don’t have a personal car available to take them there. Part of the problem is that as a society, we expect people to be able to get around reliably and fast independent of all but extreme weather – so what are people to do but take cars, whether that’s their car or an Uber?

          For what it is worth, I drive a car to work, and that car saves me 90 minutes a day vs. transit.

          1. Valid points. I used to be able to walk to & from work faster than I could get there on transit. With a better, optimized transit system the number of cars on the road could possibly be significantly reduced.

            I think society has become too obsessed with speed and that people need to incorporate active transportation into their lives where possible. I used to live in an apartment building located right next door to a convenience store and people in the building drove to & from the store. So many people drive their children to school – understandable on bad-weather days but so wrong (my opinion) on nice days, such as today.

            My main point remains that people should be prioritized over cars, although there will be times when we all need to use a car in some way shape or form to get where we need to go.

            Thank you for this discussion. I have enjoyed exchanging view points with you in a respectful manner (unlike on some more mainstream sites).