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P.E.I. Ride Share Company Eyes New Brunswick Expansion

By Sam Macdonald Jan 20, 2023 | 9:34 AM

Prince Edward Island’s first and only rideshare service may be setting up shop in Moncton.

The city is one of several New Brunswick municipalities Kari Founders Len Currie and Matt MacLeod are considering. They say they could potentially bring their rideshare services as soon as summer of this year.

“New Brunswick has several areas that are being looked at, including Fredericton, Saint John, and Moncton, in no particular order,” said Currie.

However, being able to call up a Kari driver for a ride this summer is not 100 percent certainty at this point.

“While that would be the anticipated time frame, things could be slower or faster in progress,” Currie said. “The community must be willing to welcome the service on many levels, including riders, drivers, insurance providers, municipally, provincially, and from the local business community.”

Kari provides on-demand ride-sharing services to 1,500 riders weekly – or about 80,000 annually – in Charlottetown. The service works the same as other app-based ride services like Uber and Lyft.

Currie and McLeod launched Kari in 2020 in Charlottetown, with pickup and drop-off specifically in the Greater Charlottetown area.

Kari requires drivers to own vehicles built within the last 10 years. They must also get their Class 4R license – one specifically permitting the holder to drive a taxi, ambulance, van, or bus with a capacity of fewer than 25 passengers.

The app-based service also provides commercial insurance for its drivers. The average cost of a ride with Kari is $12.50.

If it came to Moncton, Kari would be the Hub City’s first ride-share service.

The City of Moncton updated its taxi bylaw in September to accommodate the introduction of ride-share services to the city.

Moncton’s director of community safety, Conrad Landry, told council that while Lyft has shown interest in setting up in Moncton “they still say it’s about two years away.”

The province amended the Motor Vehicle Act to allow for ride-share services in late 2020.

While specifics on what Kari could look like in Moncton are in the early stages, Currie estimated a market Moncton’s size would require between 50 and 100 drivers.

Across the Confederation Bridge, Kari’s presence includes 50 approved drivers and has garnered a 97 percent satisfaction rate on the rides it has provided to date.

“Kari processes hundreds of driver sign-ups annually,” Currie noted.

Currie, who bills Kari as the first ride-hailing company in Atlantic Canada, said they are looking for communities that express a need for service or additional transportation options – and New Brunswick’s three largest cities fit the bill.

“We’re looking into it now and like to move quickly if there is enough interest,” he said.

Currie noted that demand for a service like Kari usually manifests as requests from riders looking for more options in their market.

Discussions on when Kari could be expanding to New Brunswick’s three biggest cities were all “at various stages,” Currie said, without providing further specific detail.

Currie claims that since launching in 2020, Kari has heard no objections from its biggest competitor in Charlottetown – the city’s taxi companies.

This differs from past taxi industry responses to the arrival of ride share services like Uber and Lyft in other Canadian cities.

This disapproval memorably manifested in Ottawa and Toronto, between 2014 and 2015, as protests broke out at city halls, objecting to Uber’s initial flouting of regulations taxi companies are beholden to.

Huddled called several Charlottetown-based taxi companies to get their perspective on sharing a market with Kari, but they all declined to answer questions.

The taxi industry in P.E.I.’s capital has been having a rough go. In 2022, CTV coverage reported that high fuel prices are hurting business for taxi companies, making it too expensive to keep a full fleet on the road, and difficult to recruit drivers.

According to the coverage, the high cost of fuel, paired with a $1 bump in per-rider fares approved by council, has forced taxi companies to pare down.

Currie and McLeod, both Stratford, P.E.I. natives, are testing the water in New Brunswick as part of a larger expansion initiative.

This expansion includes an interprovincial expansion pilot underway in Summerside – which is in the recruitment stage. The P.E.I. expansion was spurred by other P.E.I. municipalities requesting Kari expand its service to them as well.

“In 2023, Kari will expand its service to more regions of P.E.I. that are currently unserviced or underserviced at the request of its users,” Currie said.

Sam Macdonald is a Reporter for Huddle Today, a content-sharing partner of Acadia Broadcasting. 

 

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