Rideshare and taxi reforms in BC will eliminate municipal-controlled boundaries

Jun 21 2019, 9:24 pm

Taxi capacity in Metro Vancouver is currently artificially severely curbed by geographic boundary rules that do not allow cabs to pick up passengers outside of their registered municipality.

But these restrictions will not exist after the upcoming taxi reforms come into force, nor will boundary rules exist for the forthcoming implementation of rideshare.

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Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, says she recently formally requested the provincial government to clarify the authority municipal governments will have on curbing rideshare, and the response she received from the BC Minister of Transportation Claire Trevana was that this will be outside of municipal jurisdiction.

Instead, the provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) will have sole authority over vehicle supply and operating area for both rideshare and taxis, which will prevent municipal governments from passing bylaws that would prohibit these vehicles from operating within their municipal boundaries.

Municipal governments will be limited to regulating rideshare in less impactful ways, including passing bylaws that limit where rideshare vehicles can stop or whether they can drive in HOV lanes.

“The Surrey Board of Trade has been actively advocating for ride-hailing to be implemented, especially in the absence of transportation options in Surrey and South of the Fraser. This clarification is important to Surrey businesses to ensure a pathway towards the efficient movement of people,” said Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade.

“I was also pleased to read in Minister Trevena’s letter to the Surrey Board of Trade that she will be working in the coming weeks and months to promote greater flexibility around the key areas of regulations, raised in the report released by the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations. Specifically in the areas of supply, boundaries and pricing, to better prepare for the introduction of ride-hailing.”

Earlier this year, Joseph Okpaku, the vice-president of public policy at Lyft, provided a testimony to the BC Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations on the existing issues of boundary policies for taxis and how a similar system would strangle the effectiveness of rideshare.

“Restricting Lyft with arbitrary boundaries will only cause already transit-poor residents to suffer more,” said Okpaku.

“Geographic boundaries are part of why taxis have to drive back empty after dropping off passengers in different jurisdictions — which is a waste of time, gas and kilometres travelled — and lead to frustrated passengers. If geographic boundaries are arbitrarily imposed on ride-sharing, we may continue to see those same frustrations from passengers who simply want to get to their destination.”

Okpaku highlighted the likely scenario of more people returning to drive themselves home after a night out if rideshare is made unreliable by operational boundaries.

During the same testimony, a senior official with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) also echoed Okpaku’s assertions on the impact of the boundaries.

“With respect to the boundaries, I think one of the issues we tried to resolve the last time I gave evidence was the difficulty people have in getting home at certain times of the day, when it’s raining. Supply doesn’t necessarily meet demand when it comes to getting people home in a timely manner,” said the VPD’s J. Rice.

“I think that the boundaries with the TNS companies could be counterproductive. Restricting somebody from only picking up in a very limited area, driving out to the suburbs and not being able to take somebody back is one of the problems we’re trying to solve. So I think doing that overly restrictively would be counterproductive.”

While municipal governments will have less authority, this does not mean the PTB will not enforce its own boundary policies.

But in all likelihood, any boundaries enacted by the provincial authority will be more flexible, providing rideshare and taxi companies with a larger operating area than the existing municipal-restricted system for taxis.

Boundary rules can also be used as a tool to curb the level of traffic congestion that has been associated with the implementation of free-range rideshare in other cities around the world.

“Legislation passed last fall session will strengthen the Passenger Transportation Board’s authority to determine fares, vehicle supply and operating areas. These changes are intended to streamline the process and eliminate overlapping provincial and municipal jurisdiction. These changes will apply to taxis as well as ride-hailing vehicles,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation in a statement issued to Daily Hive.

“Last week, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure sent a letter to the Passenger Transportation Board recommending flexibility on decisions around supply, pricing and boundaries to accommodate modern transportation business models.”

The removal of boundaries was one of the recommendations made by the committee this past spring, and it was supported by the taxi industry over the interest of creating a fair-level playing field with rideshare companies.

Following years-long delays, the provincial plans to implement rideshare services this fall.

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