A new, app-based ridesharing service is available in three major markets through Northern Ontario.
Uride, which is accessible on smartphones, launched in Thunder Bay two years ago before expanding into Sudbury last fall and into North Bay this spring. Beyond this region, the service is also available in Chatham-Kent and Winnipeg, Man.
Cody Ruberto developed and launched the app in his hometown of Thunder Bay.
“I use ridesharing in all these other markets, and I think it’s a fantastic thing,” said the 28-year-old. “We didn’t have anything like that in Thunder Bay.”
To access the service, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, users download the app on their smartphones and register with Uride. They can then order a ride by choosing the location they want to go, and that request gets sent to the nearest available driver.
After a driver accepts the ride, users can bring up a map on their phones to watch the car’s progress as it makes its way to their location. They then hop in the car and it takes them where they want to go.
“Everything’s done through the app, so you don’t have to carry cash,” Ruberto said. “It’s all done by card, and it really is a seamless way to get a ride.”
In all markets, the average time for pickup is less than 10 minutes, he noted.
Throughout the year, Ruberto spends most of his time in Europe, plying his trade as a professional soccer player.
But it was three years ago, while he was back home in Thunder Bay recovering from a serious injury, that the idea for a ridesharing app first presented itself.
“Every time I would go out, I would see crowds of people stranded outside the bars, sometimes in -30 (degree weather),” Ruberto said.
“A lot of people would hop in their cars and drive after having a couple of drinks. There were very few taxis on the road, and it was a major, major problem. So I got a little bit frustrated.”
Ruberto set about doing some research and found major gaps in his hometown’s transportation network.
Residents told him they had just as hard a time hailing a taxi midday while grocery shopping as they did at 2 a.m. after a night out on the town.
Looking at a minimum of a year’s worth of rehabilitation and recovery, Ruberto decided to use his time to develop Uride.
Though the original impetus for the service was to cut down on drinking and driving, Ruberto acknowledges ridesharing as a useful way for business travellers to hitch a ride from the airport to their hotel, make their way around a new city, or hop easily between meetings.
Drivers who work for the service have to meet stringent conditions to qualify. In addition to having a valid Ontario driver’s licence, drivers must pass a criminal record check and have a clean driver’s abstract.
Their vehicles can be no more than 10 years old and they have to pass a vehicle safety inspection. Uride provides full commercial insurance for drivers any time they’re on the platform.
It’s also preferred that drivers have a good attitude and “genuinely want to help their community,” Ruberto said.
“Passengers get to rate drivers after every single trip,” he said. “We review all passenger comments and it really allows us to keep the standard of drivers high.”
Since launching in North Bay this spring, Uride has about 20 drivers working steadily, but demand is increasing and Uride is currently in hiring mode.
Support for the service in that city has been some of the strongest so far.
“North Bay is one of the markets where we've seen the most enthusiasm for ridesharing, so we're really excited to be there,” Ruberto said.
“We’re going to do our absolute best to help prevent drinking and driving and improve transportation for the community.”
In early January, Uride was testing the market in Humboldt, Sask., and Ruberto said he's also looking at expanding into additional locations in northwestern Ontario.