Facedrive, an emerging, environmentally-friendly Canadian rideshare service, is coming to Orillia.
The company made a proposal to the city this week, asking for exclusivity as the municipality’s only rideshare service - a move that would have shut out other companies like Uber and Lyft.
However, after a lengthy debate Monday night, city councillors voted down that idea.
But local politicians, who have been discussing this issue for two years, did agree to a new bylaw that eases some of the restrictions it had previously placed on such services.
Council removed a controversial component of the regulation that would have forced rideshare drivers to undergo a vulnerable sector check (VSC). When that caveat was introduced, Uber opted to black out its app in Orillia.
As a result, many people found themselves waiting up to two hours for a cab - especially on weekend evenings.
Public outrage about that, centred around concerns about safety, sparked council to re-evaluate their rules.
Uber told city staff they would apply to operate in Orillia if they eased their restrictions.
Facedrive has beaten them to the punch, saying they “are hoping to be in business and fully operational in the next 30-45 days.”
Facedrive will not compel their drivers to get VSCs. They would have done so if they were given exclusivity in the market, said the company’s chief operating officer, Suman Pushparajah.
“We are going to stick to what the bylaw requirements are,” said Pushparajah. “We requested exclusivity for this purpose as Facedrive was going to cover the cost of vulnerable safety checks for the drivers.”
But he stressed safety is paramount to the company.
“We are committed to the safety of both our drivers and riders, so we do have an extensive screening process to onboard a driver before they are approved to be on the road,” said Pushparajah.
Coun. Jay Fallis pushed for council to delay their decision about the bylaw to further investigate Facedrive’s proposal. He did not get support from his colleagues for that.
“My primary concern has always been the safety of those in our community who chose to use this service,” said Fallis.
“I was excited when I heard that Facedrive had been willing to accommodate our requirement for a vulnerable sector check. I would have been happy to welcome any and all rideshare companies that met this requirement,” he said.
Pushparajah said the company is looking forward to expanding to Orillia; the service is already available in the GTA, London, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph.
“We see a great opportunity in Orillia,” said Pushparajah. “There is a huge need with the transportation gaps and given that there is currently no other rideshare at this time.”
He said Facedrive “can be a sustainable solution to get residents moving in the City of Orillia.”
Like Uber, Facedrive is a 24/7 service that is available to users by downloading the company's app.
“We will be an ideal choice, especially to those who are looking to support a local Canadian company, who is committed to staying green and affordable,” said Pushparajah.
He is proud of the company’s ‘green’ focus.
“Facedrive is Canada’s first sustainable and socially responsible rideshare company,” he said. “We are working to deliver all products and services on a socially responsible and carbon-neutral basis.”
He said the company has partnered with Forest Ontario to plant trees to off-set the carbon that is emitted through rideshare.
“Riders can track the number of trees they planted on the app itself based on the number of rides taken,” said Pushparajah. “Riders are able to track the impact of their decision to ride green.”
Last year alone, Facedrive planted over 3,500 trees in Ontario, he said.
“We also pay our drivers more - drivers who drive hybrid or electric cars can make up to 85-90% of the ride fare,” said Pushparajah.
The company does not have surge pricing, which increases ride costs during peak times.
Fallis said he hopes having multiple options such as taxis, Facedrive and, potentially, Uber, will help address the issues people in Orillia are facing.
“There is absolutely no question: we really need to address the issue of wait times in our city,” said Fallis who said he’s “hoping” these moves create solutions.