TransLink proposes a simplified, single regional business license for rideshare

Dec 6 2019, 8:53 pm

TransLink management will be pushing hard to the Mayors’ Council next week, asking their respective municipal governments to allow the public transit authority to coordinate the creation of a single, regional Inter-Municipal Business License (IMBL) for ridehailing services across Metro Vancouver.

The alternative to regionality is each municipal government creating their own structure of separate businesses licenses and annual fees for both ridehailing companies and their drivers.

There are 23 local and municipal governments in Metro Vancouver. At the moment, it increasingly appears these jurisdictions are more inclined to take a solo approach to regulation.

However, this 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 ridehailing in BC.

Ridehailing vehicles “are truly mobile businesses whose home address bears little relevance on the location where they conduct their actual business,” reads a TransLink staff report.

The piling up of excessive regulations and the combined municipal fees will lead to exorbitant costs for a ridehailing driver to be able to operate in all jurisdictions in the region.

It could force them to choose to operate in jurisdictions that have the highest demand based on population and density, particularly Vancouver. This creates winners and losers in the quality of ridehailing service offered to each jurisdiction, with suburban municipalities far more likely being the losers.

The City of Vancouver has already established a business license structure of annual fees of $155 per ridehailing 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 license are even higher, set at $600 for the first year and $180 annually for renewal for a ridehailing 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 licenses.

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 ridehailing 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 license approach.

“If every municipality implements different municipal business license 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 licenses in only the most lucrative markets – leaving some parts of the region under-served,” continues the report.

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 ridehailing vehicles operating in their jurisdiction, but they can require business licenses and fees, and regulate pick-up and drop-off locations through street and traffic bylaws. Ridehailing companies can begin operations in BC, as soon as they receive authorization from the PTB — unless there are municipal business license regulations that mandate companies to first obtain a business license.

“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 licenses, 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 license bylaws to lay a strong foundation for an eventual IMBL.”

If the Mayors’ Council approves establishing a mandate for the public transit authority to coordinate the creation of the IMBL, TransLink staff will continue to work closely with the municipal governments, provincial government, and the PTB towards a regional approach.

TransLink warns that elsewhere in the world, “poor coordination among local government has led TNS companies to successfully advocate for state pre-emption of local authority of TNS companies.”

In Metro Vancouver’s case, state pre-emption would be the provincial government and the PTB.

“Inconsistency in local regulations, and an excessive cumulative regulatory and financial burden is often cited as a reason for state pre-emption. Coordination also allows for simpler compliance on the part of the TNS operators which they generally welcome,” adds the report.