While BC Premier John Horgan told Daily Hive last week that he’s moving as fast as he believes is “appropriate” when it comes to bringing rideshare services like Uber and Lyft to the province, it appears anyone hoping use these services sometime in the near future will have to wait a little while longer.
On Monday, BC’s transportation minister Claire Trevena announced the provincial government will allow ride-hailing companies to enter the BC market, but not until next year.
“This is milestone legislation that gets ride-hailing right for BC,” said Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one.”
If passed, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act will enable ICBC to develop a modern insurance product for ride-hailing for fall of 2019.
It will also include:
- A new, data-driven approach to improve taxi service and ride-hailing opportunities, particularly at high-demand locations and peak times, by strengthening the Passenger Transportation Board’s authority to determine fares, vehicle supply and operating areas.
- The development of measures to make sure people “are not left stranded” when traveling from one municipality to another.
- The inclusion of a per-trip fee to fund more accessibility options for people with disabilities.
- Increased enforcement of the rules with stiffer penalties for taxi and ride-hailing companies for working outside the law.
A new, legislative committee will review these changes as regulations are put in place, as well.
This is a necessary step, the government said, because BC is in a unique situation with its public auto insurer (ICBC) and at this point, does not have a product available pertinent to the ridesharing industry. So in order for ICBC to proceed, an amendment to the legislation was needed to give them the authority to start that process.
In drafting the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, the government said its priority was “to make sure British Columbians are safer on the roads,” and as such, will be requiring all ride-hailing drivers to obtain a Class 4 passenger licence (the same as taxi drivers) and undergo mandatory criminal checks.
With these legislative changes, the government said it expects applications from ride-hailing companies wanting to enter the market will be submitted to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) by fall 2019.
In considering an application, the PTB will apply the same passenger legislation that they apply now, namely whether the applicant is “capable” of delivering the service, there is a “public need” for the service and what does the applicant, and whether the application, if approved would promote “sound economic conditions” for the transportation business in BC.
If an application is approved, the PTB then sets terms and conditions on the license, which can include setting the number or supply of passenger-directed vehicles and the area in which they are authorized to operate. The PTB will also determine and set the rate a licensee may charge passengers.
That being said, the government said that theoretically anyone could apply for a license now, but there won’t be the insurance there to cover them.
“Nobody’s going to be on the road until there’s an insurance product to cover them,” said Trevena.
In an interview with Daily Hive following the announcement, Trevena said she’d “love” to be able to move the process along quicker, “but ICBC is dealing with more than a billion dollars worth of problems that were left by the former government, and that has to be a priority; ensuring that the public insurance works for everybody.”
In addition, having the “right” insurance “is vital for rideshare to work,” she said.
“ICBC will get on it – they know this is a priority. Unfortunately, they do have more than a billion dollars worth of problems that they are trying to deal with.”
A long road
Earlier this year, the provincial government that in the meantime, they’ve adopted a suite of recommendations to “modernize the taxi industry,” and boost the number of cabs throughout BC to give people more rides.
Back in June, Trevena said the legislation focuses on consumer safety and enforcement, streamlining license applications for taxi drivers, supply and boundaries for taxis, and other passenger-directed vehicles, and working with ICBC to enable a modern insurance product.
“I know that people are looking for expanded transportation options very soon,” she said at the time. “I want to reassure them that a lot of work is happening to get this accomplished but it is important that we get this right. We can learn from the experience of other jurisdictions… and ensure the safety of drivers and passengers in BC.”
For now, Vancouver remains the largest city in North America without a ride-hailing service.