There will only be one business licence required for ride-hailing companies in Metro Vancouver, regardless of where they operate, after the Mayors Council passed a motion on Thursday greenlighting the creation of a single, regional Inter-Municipal Business Licence (IMBL).
The alternative would have seen each municipal government create its own structure of separate business licences and annual fees for both ride-hailing companies and their drivers.
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With 23 local and municipal governments in Metro Vancouver, there was concern that this approach could cripple the effectiveness and feasibility of regional ridehailing operations, as intended by the provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB), which designated Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and the Sea-to-Sky Corridor as Zone 1 for ride-hailing in BC.
Ride-hailing vehicles “are truly mobile businesses whose home address bears little relevance on the location where they conduct their actual business,” a TransLink staff report said.
The City of Vancouver has already established a business licence structure of annual fees of $155 per ride-hailing company and $100 per vehicle, plus 30 cent pick-up and drop-off fees within the downtown Vancouver peninsula and Central Broadway Corridor.
The annual fees established by the City of Burnaby for their business licence are even higher, set at $600 for the first year and $180 annually for renewal for a ride-hailing company, and $510 for the first year and $280 annually for renewal for each vehicle.
At least three other municipalities have also established or are in the process of creating varying fees for their own business licences.
As well, the staff report notes Vancouver International Airport and the University of British Columbia are in the final stages of confirming access agreements for ride-hailing companies. The regulations serving the airport and the university campus are expected to be similar to the City of Vancouver’s regulations.
However, the municipalities of the Tri-Cities subregion (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody) and the North Shore subregion (North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, and West Vancouver) are working towards a subregional business licence approach.
“If every municipality implements different municipal business licence requirements, each with their own sets of fees, the cumulative regulatory and financial burden may lead Transportation Network Services (TNS) companies to secure municipal business licences in only the most lucrative markets — leaving some parts of the region under-served,” the report said.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West has been an advocate within the Mayors’ Council for the IMBL, going as far as calling it a “common sense” approach.
Provincial regulations stipulate municipalities cannot ban or regulate the number of ride-hailing vehicles operating in their jurisdiction, but they can require business licences and fees, and regulate pick-up and drop-off locations through street and traffic bylaws. Ride-hailing companies can begin operations in BC, as soon as they receive authorization from the PTB — unless there are municipal business licence regulations that mandate companies to first obtain a business licence.
“I just shake my head at this idea that if we can’t get our act together in the region, it is going to confirm everyone’s worst inclinations and thoughts about having 23 separate municipalities and jurisdictions,” West previously told Daily Hive Urbanized.
“This is one of those moments where our residents across the region are looking at us for leadership.”
According to TransLink, the creation of an IMBL, replacing the separate municipal business licences, could take “many months.” In the meantime, the public transit authority is urging municipal governments to “aim for as much consistency as possible in their individual municipal business licence bylaws to lay a strong foundation for an eventual IMBL.”
The only mayor to vote against the motion on Thursday was Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.