Ontario town turns to Uber in place of bus service

Published: June 1, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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What do you do if you live in a municipality where bus frequency is a problem? Well, if you are in the Ontario town of Innisfil you could turn to ride-sharing giant Uber. The region has become the first in Canada to turn to the US company to manage its public transport instead of buses.

Innisfil has been subsidizing its residents for Uber rides since the start of May, with a journey costing $3 around the town center and $50 to the GO regional station. All other areas receive a $5 discount for Uber rides. All the discounts are covered by the local government.

What is interesting is that Innisfil is not an out of the way village but a big town of 100,000 people. The government found that it was more cost-effective to use Uber than to pay for buses and drivers.

Christopher Sinardo, public sector national practice leader for BFL Canada Risk and Insurance Services, said the town has transferred risk to Uber.

“With auto insurance, whether it’s a bus or a private individual or a taxi, the province requires that the owner of the vehicle buy the insurance,” Sinardo said. “So really what they’ve done from an insurance standpoint is rather than going and buying the bus and the insurance on the bus, is they’ve transferred the risk to the individual Uber operators.”

Uber is covered in Ontario by Intact Insurance, “every Uber ride in Ontario irrespective of how the ride originates (that is, whether it is from a deal with a township or otherwise),” says Hazel Tan, Intact’s manager for external communications.

“You still have the same number of people, so you still have the same exposure,” Sinardo said. “It’s either you have one bus that picks them all up – and that’s an insurance opportunity. Or there are smaller opportunities with each of the individual Uber operators. There are more transactions that are going to take place but they’re going to be smaller… it’s still up to the Uber operator to make sure they have the appropriate insurance.”