Ride-hailing in Victoria and Nanaimo? Uride has its application in

Ontario-based Uride has applied to launch a ride-hailing service in Victoria, Nanaimo and three other B.C. cities, the company announced Thursday.

Skye Volpi, Uride’s chief operating officer, said the company has already begun recruiting drivers in Victoria.

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“We recently filed our application with the B.C. government, and we’re patiently waiting for their decision and their approval process,” he said. “I believe it takes anywhere from six to eight weeks before we’ll have something in place.”

Uride hopes to launch its service in Victoria, Nanaimo, Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops before the end of the year.

As of Tuesday, ride-hailing companies were able to apply to B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board for a licence to operate in the province.

While major ride-hailing companies have raised concerns about the B.C. government’s requirement that drivers have a Class 4 licence, Uride doesn’t think it will have a problem recruiting enough drivers — even in smaller centres. “We’ve already started taking in applications and it seems like there’s been a lot of interest in these smaller communities,” Volpi said.

“We’re seeing how the process goes — especially because they have to go through the licensing requirements for the Class 4s — but based on the interest alone, we anticipate that we should have a successful launch in Victoria.”

Volpi said the company takes no issue with the Class 4 licence requirement. “We fully appreciate the government’s standpoint and the fact that they want to make sure that the customers safe,” he said.

The company launched in Thunder Bay, Ont., in 2017 and later expanded to Chatham-Kent, Sudbury, North Bay and Winnipeg.

“The main reason why Uride was founded was to eliminate impaired driving in these smaller communities, especially when a lot of people go out drinking on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s a lack of transportation options,” Volpi said.

Cody Ruberto, Uride’s founder and chief executive officer, is a professional soccer player who says he got the idea for the ride-hailing service while back in his hometown of Thunder Bay, recovering from an injury.

“Every time I’d go out … at the end of the night there’d be crowds of people stranded with no ride home, sometimes in –30 C,” he said in an interview Thursday.

“So there were major problems. We launched Uride and we were able to get wait times down from between an hour and an hour and a half in that particular city to an average wait time of under 10 minutes.”

Ruberto said Uride targets small-market cities because many of them have a shortage of transportation options.

“And they deserve to have ride-sharing,” he said. “A lot of these cities get neglected.”

Ruberto said drivers use their own vehicles and are covered by commercial insurance to protect them and their passengers. Some drivers do it for a living, while others work part time, he said.

As with other ride-hailing services, Uride passengers can download an app that allows them to hire a vehicle.

“You can click a button and a car will appear to take you wherever you want to go,” Ruberto said. “Everything’s done through the app. You can watch your car on a map as it drives to your location. It’s just a seamless way to get a ride.”

ICBC says it will issue a blanket insurance certificate to ride-hailing companies, not individual drivers, to provide basic insurance during ride-hailing use. The coverage is mandatory and provides accident benefits and up to $1 million in third-party liability.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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