BC transportation minister would 'love' rideshare rollout to be faster

Nov 20 2018, 8:44 am

On Monday, BC’s Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced that the provincial government is taking the next step through legislation to finally bring rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to BC’s roads.

But 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 those services to the province, it appears anyone hoping to hail one sometime in the near future will have to wait a little while longer – until at least the fall of 2019, to be exact.

Following the official announcement Monday, Trevena offered more detail on what people can expect moving forward from here.

“Today’s legislation opens the door for ride-hailing companies to enter the market,”said Trevena. “The legislation also fixes longstanding problems and complaints I hear from people all the time.”

For example, she said everyone knows someone who has been refused taxi pickup in downtown Vancouver because they were going to the suburbs.”With the changes proposed today, people will no longer be left stranded.”

Why will this take another year?

According to Trevena, the reason for the fall 2019 timeline stems from the fact that ICBC needs to create a specific product for rideshare insurance, as no such product currently exists, and this is the timeframe needed to create one.

Noting that BC’s Attorney General David Eby has described ICBC’s current financial situation as a “dumpster fire,” Trevena said the public auto insurer was left in a “horrendous” position by the last government and “its priority has been to try and fix the problems.”

Now, she said, ICBC “is turning its attention to this, while still trying to deal with the $1 billion mess it was left by the previous government.”

Trevena said she would “love” to see the whole process move faster, but that ICBC’s existing problems and current position leave it with this timeline.

“People are frustrated; they want to have rideshare yesterday, I know that,” said Trevena.

“What this legislation does – and it’s really important – is set the stage not only for ICBC, but also makes sure that it gets rid of overlap in jurisdictions,” she added.

Trevena rejected the notion that the government is dragging its feet on the whole issue.

“We’ve moved very quickly,” she said. “We’ve done in a year what the previous government didn’t do in five years and I do believe that we are going to have ride-hailing soon, that it’s going to work for everyone and it’s going to be a demand-driven approach based on data.”

ICBC, she added, “will get on it, they know this is a priority.”

First rideshare vehicles on the road

So in light of today’s announcement, can the provincial government finally give people an exact date of when the first rideshare vehicles will be in place on BC’s roads? Well, not exactly.  Part of the issue stems from how long it will actually take to start processing the applications.

“We’re very hopeful that the PTB will be approving them [applications] very quickly when they get the applications in and we’re very hopeful that applications will come in very soon,” said Trevena.

“I know all the ride-hailing companies are eager to come to the market,” she added.

However, “nobody’s going to be on the road until there’s an insurance product that works for them, so as soon as ICBC gets that product in place, we’ll be able to move on that and it’s a matter of how quickly PTB – which is an independent body – can move.”

Asked if she could foresee there would be ride-hailing services on the road by Christmas 2019, Trevena didn’t answer directly, simply stating it would happen “As soon as possible. If we’re able to get things moving more quickly, it will be before then.”

Class 4 vs. Class 5 licensing

She also spoke to the fact that, with the new legislation, drivers will now need a BC Class 4 license (the same license required of taxi drivers), instead of the standard Class 5, citing the need for safety.

“If you’re going to be earning money through driving people from place-to-place, you need to make that investment so that you can show you are safe,” said Trevena.

“Anyone getting in as a passenger wants to know that the driver is as safe as possible.”

Of course, she said, the drivers have to feel safe as well.

“We obviously want to make sure that everybody is working in a safe environment, that they’re being respected as workers, and that they are getting a fair and living wage,” she said. “The companies coming in will be the ones responsible to get the license and make that the people driving for them have all the various record checks and the licenses they need to drive.”

For now, Vancouver remains the largest city in North America without a ride-hailing service.

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Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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