A unique limousine service is trying to make its way into Calgary's bustling transportation market, but there's just one problem.
Current city by-laws require all limousine services to charge a minimum of $78.30 for any trip provided, but Uber Calgary, a smartphone app that connects riders with transportation providers, says it's not down with charging an arm and a leg.
The San Francisco-based tech company will be giving Calgarians a trial run of the service, from Wednesday to Sunday, by offering free rides to anyone making a $5 donation to the Calgary Foundation.
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"Supply over the next five days will be limited -- and rides will be free," says Andrew Noyes with Uber, "but when we're able to offer service here formally, we'll connect Calgarians with safe, reliable, high quality rides all over the city."
Calgarian W. Brett Wilson was the maiden voyage rider and was picked up in a Cadillac Escalade at his southwest Calgary office to make his way to a meeting.
Another Calgarian, Garrett Camp, is one of the co-founders of the company.
The City of Calgary, meanwhile, was quick to rain on Uber's parade and came out reminding Calgarians to be safe and only use licenced limousine and driver services.
"Our primary concern is for the safety of Calgarians, and that means - when pre-arranging service - making sure the vehicle and driver hold valid City of Calgary limousine licences," says Marc Halat, Chief Licence Officer with the city.
Licensed limousines must have a clearly visible red “City of Calgary Licensed Limousine” decal on the rear window on the drivers side. Orange decals are now expired.
Uber says it's working with licensed and insured drivers in the city and hopes Calgarians will love the service enough to make it stay.
"We hope we can be here permanently soon," Noyes told The Huffington Post Alberta.
Currently operating in more than 50 cities, including Toronto and Montreal, the service is typically a bit more than the cost of a taxi service, Noyes adds.
Base fares in Toronto range from $8 to $25, depending on the type of vehicle, with rates of $0.80 per minute for under 18 km/h and $2.50 per kilometer for a longer journey.