Uber will operate in BC by end of 2017: transportation minister

Mar 09, 2017, 00:25
Uber will operate in BC by end of 2017: transportation minister

Included in the plan are measures created to protect the taxi industry, which, in its current state, would undoubtedly face new challenges competing with services such as Uber and Lyft.

After more than a year of consultation on how to regulate ride-hailing without decimating the taxicab industry, Transportation Minister Todd Stone and TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender made the announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Councillor Geoff Meggs says while he knew ride-hailing would eventually come to Metro Vancouver and acknowledged there were issues with B.C. residents and visitors obtaining timely cab service in some areas, he said the province has moved without proper consideration.

"We need some more information on what exactly the structure is going to be for ride-sharing before we make any decisions on whether we'd like to reapply for ride-sharing licences or potentially switch our application from the taxi licences to ride-sharing licences", he said.

But the government anxious about how ride-hailing would undercut the existing taxi industry, in which drivers have often invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the limited supply of taxi licenses (investments often backstopped by home and business mortgages) in order to operate under provincial rules.

It will also give taxis exclusive rights to street hailing and work with municipal governments to reduce red tape and address the current shortages of taxis and vehicles for hire. "That will again be a competitive advantage for them as existing companies with marked cars", he said.

The government news release noted that ride-sharing companies "typically operate across municipal boundaries".

In 2014, the Vancouver Taxi Association filed a lawsuit alleging Uber planned to operate illegally in the city without attaining proper licences from city hall or the province's Passenger Transportation Board (PTB).

"Tallahassee was proud to be one of the first cities in the state to approve favorable ridesharing laws, and we are excited that Lyft is now expanding into the Capital City", said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. "We want to respect the jobs that are represented in the taxi industry".

Horgan said he agrees that taxis should be able to pick-up and drop-off customers anywhere, but that the province also needs more cabs on the road.

But with the unpredictability of the gig economy, it's unsure whether the playing field will stay level.

In addition, the government made a commitment to sustain the province's taxi ecosystem, outlining several initiatives to create what it calls, "a level playing field".

Stone adds drivers will have to follow the same regime including safe-driving and criminal record checks; their vehicle must also pass regular mechanical inspections.

The B.C. government will break the taxi industry monopoly with new rules it says will allow ride-matching juggernaut Uber to fairly compete.

The Vancouver Taxi Association promised to fight the province's plan any way it can.

Uber uses surge pricing at high-demand times to attract additional drivers, so while passengers might not face as long a wait for a cab on New Year's Eve they could expect to pay much more.