Uber warns Toronto it will raise prices, slow service in 2019

Uber is taking its battle to the top of one of Canada’s busiest commuter cities, warning that higher prices and longer wait times are coming to Toronto as a result of the city’s decision to freeze new taxi licences.

The ride-hailing company said on Wednesday that it was launching a new “Taxi Traffic Relief” campaign to highlight its concerns over the city’s move, calling it one of the “most damaging and expensive policy decisions of the past decade.”

It came less than a day after Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that he would order city councillors to reject a request by the city’s licensing department to grant drivers permits to operate three more taxi companies. Tory said he was disappointed in the decision, as the measure would give competitors in the fast-growing on-demand ride-hailing market at least two years to set up new operations.

“We are committed to making the world’s best car sharing and on-demand transportation option even better for the people of Toronto,” Wan Ling Martello, Uber’s Canadian general manager, said in a statement. “We have made impressive progress in providing safe, reliable rides around the city and we look forward to continuing to expand in 2019.”

Uber was in late 2017 forced to cede its entire share of the Toronto market to new competitor, Lyft, after local officials blamed the San Francisco-based company for contributing to severe congestion on the city’s roads.

Since that time, the company has been quietly ramping up its presence in Toronto, opening a new testing lab in the city in August and launching Uber Ambassadors in late 2018.

The “Taxi Traffic Relief” campaign is designed to highlight the service’s convenience at a time when congestion is growing in the city.

In the first month of the campaign, Uber said it warned its customers that some taxi stations were already requiring as many as 100 rides, hour, to meet the same demand from their smartphone users. The company also said Toronto’s iconic Eaton Centre shopping mall was sometimes down to one cab after an event.

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