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This Coquitlam councillor is also an Uber driver

Teri Towner picked up seven rides this weekend after meeting requirements to be a ride-hailing driver, she says the effort, though costly, is worth it to fill transportation gaps
Coquitlam Coun. Teri Towner has joined the ranks of Uber drivers after obtaining her Class 4 licence and meeting other requirements. Over the weekend, she said, she picked up seven rides, driving people to various places around town.

A Coquitlam councillor can add another job title to her resume: Uber driver.

On the weekend, Teri Towner said she picked up a handful of passengers in her first outing as a driver for the American ride-hailing company, which launched Friday, along with Lyft.

After making $34 in less than an hour Friday night and getting people to their destinations, including a couple of Port Moody brewery patrons to their homes in Coquitlam and Port Moody, Towner declared her inaugural run a success.

“Yes, I’ll do it again," Towner texted The Tri-City News after completing her first night of rides.

Still, it’s going to take some time to make up her investment. The veteran councillor had to shell out approximately $500 to comply with regulations to be a driver, including obtaining her Class 4 licence, getting a medical exam and a safety check for her car, but said it’s worth it to “fill a gap” in suburban transportation.

Her vehicle, a 2019 Hyundai Tucson, didn’t really need a safety check and Towner said she didn’t learn anything from studying for her Class 4 test that would help her on the road as an Uber driver because most of the information was for larger vehicles, such as buses.

But she said she was willing to make the effort because she believes Uber could fill a gap in the suburban transportation network, especial on weekend evenings when people want to get home from bars, breweries and SkyTrain stations.

“We have gaps in our transportation system and I do fully believe that in peak times, when there’s not always a cab, people make the wrong choices but [ride-hailing drivers] can fill those gaps,” Towner said.

“It’s about time we got it and I put my money where my mouth is,” she added.

There was some confusion about where drivers could operate in the Tri-Cities because licences were not yet available in all communities. But according to Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, provincial approval of ride-hailing meant drivers could operate and he said the city is supportive of an inter-municipal licence program, which should be available shortly.

“We’ve embraced the regional model and we’ve made headway to get a regional solution in place,” he told The Tri-City News.

Whether ride-haling will be a transportation solution or problem still remains to be seen. Both Towner and Stewart say they are worried the program will be hindered by a lack of drivers, especially in the Tri-Cities, while others have raised concerns about job security and benefits because drivers are considered independent contractors by the companies.

Taxi companies have said ride-hailing companies have unfair advantages because of their unlimited fleet size, among other issues, and some concerns have been raised about safety and congestion created by ride-hailing.

But for Towner, becoming a Uber driver is something to do part-time in between her other activities, events and “mom” duties.

“I’m helping to bridge gaps with respect to transportation in the Tri-Cities, for example, by providing first-mile/last-mile transportation to and from the SkyTrain,” she said.