Surrey mayor wants to stop rideshare in his city, but he has no authority

Sep 11 2019, 11:57 am

In his latest move to place a roadblock on rideshare, Surrey mayor Doug McCallum has vowed that he won’t be giving business licenses to ridehailing companies.

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The pledge was made during a surprise appearance at a meeting of taxi drivers on Tuesday in East Vancouver.

“The cities actually have one tool in their back pocket, and I’m going to use it in Surrey. And that is that every ridesharing company needs to have a business license in the City of Surrey,” said McCallum.

“I’m telling you today we will not be issuing any business licenses to ridesharing companies in Surrey.”

But the provincial government has firmly stated municipal authorities do not have any jurisdiction on where and how ridehailing companies can operate, as this is solely regulated at the provincial level by the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB).

In a statement to Daily Hive, the BC Ministry of Transportation says municipalities certainly have the ability to require business licenses, but this would contravene overriding provincial law that “restricts the authority of municipalities to regulate the supply and boundaries of taxis and ride hail services.”

“Only the Passenger Transportation Board is authorized to establish supply and boundaries for these services.”

When asked directly whether the City of Surrey can prevent ridehailing companies from operating, the Ministry answered directly with the following: “No, the Board is responsible for the regulation of taxis and ride-hail vehicles. The Board has sole responsibility to control supply, boundaries and rates.”

The PTB has established five operating zones for ridehailing in BC, including Region 1 that includes Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and the Sea-to-Sky corridor reaching as far north as Lillooet. Baseline rates for using ridehailing will also be aligned with the flag fare of taxis.

But the lack of operating boundaries, coupled with no fleet size cap limits, has raised the ire of taxi companies, and there are concerns that the lack of restrictions could increase traffic congestion.

These large operating areas for ridehailing are far larger than the operating boundaries of taxis, which can only pick up passengers within their “home municipality.” McCallum says that this creates “an un-level playing field” because the taxi industry must abide by cross-border restrictions in Metro Vancouver municipalities.

“Minister Trevena has heard the concerns of Mayor McCallum and other stakeholders and has written to the Passenger Transportation Board to relay their concerns,” continued the Ministry’s statement.

“Government respects the independence of the Passenger Transportation Board to make decisions regarding operating areas and supply, and we have confidence the Board will reassess these decisions in a timely manner once data is available to do so. We will continue our work to provide the services people have been asking for in a safe and responsible way that considers the effects of congestion and the livelihoods of those in the taxi industry.”

Mayor McCallum has made it clear on multiple occasions that he does not support ride-hailing.

Surrey city councillor Linda Annis said in a statement the latest pledge is just another move from McCallum in his effort to “ignore Surrey residents in favour of a handful of taxi owners.”

“Not issuing business licenses is a ridiculous idea,” said Annis in a statement. “The fact that we don’t have enough transit or cabs to start with makes the Mayor’s idea just another poke in the eye to thousands of Surrey residents who would use Uber and Lyft.”

Annis argues that in addition to Uber and Lyft, Surrey also needs cabs that aren’t affected by said restrictions. She notes that due to the size of the city, ridehailing has to be a part of solving Surrey’s transportation and transit needs.

“Riders and consumers should come first,” she says. “We should let the market and consumers sort this out and get rid of unnecessary restrictions.”

“Competition in this sector is definitely healthy because it will benefit riders and consumers,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s the consumer’s turn to take the lead and that means getting Uber and Lyft in Surrey right away.”

Annis says that she, like thousands of other Surrey residents, is awaiting the arrival of rideshare and plans to use it when it comes.

with files from Eric Zimmer

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