Passenger Transportation Board letter hints at further rideshare delays in BC

Oct 31 2019, 10:42 am

After rideshare operator Lyft said last week that it expects its application to operate in BC to clear “in the next two to three weeks,” a letter sent to ridesharing applicants from the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) and obtained by Daily Hive seems to suggest that the application process could take longer than expected.

In the letter, PTB Chair Catharine Read writes that the purpose of her letter is to inform them of an “application process modification” that comes after the launch of a judicial review by the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Taxi Association into the PTB’s operational policy on ride hailing.

“I am writing to inform you of a Board decision to introduce an application process modification on applications that will enable submitters to review applicant responses to original submissions as well as the application package itself and provide responses,” she writes.

The PTB has also “received several requests from submitters to hold an oral hearing.”

And while the Board has chosen not to go this route, “it has decided to modify its ride-hailing application process to provide further disclosure to submitters to ensure transparency in its decision-making process.”

Moving forward, Read says, the PTB will provide updated information to “all those who sent in submissions.”

This information, she said, will include:

  • The application package, after redacting where necessary to protect confidential
    business and personal information in the spirit of the Freedom of Information and
    Protection of Privacy Act.
    • The applicant’s response to the submissions that were received on their application
    after redacting where necessary to protect confidential business and personal
    information in the spirit of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
    Act.

Read writes that applicants will “have seven calendar days” to respond to the PTB with their feedback on the proposed redactions before the materials are forwarded to submitters on the applications.

The submitters will then be given 14 calendar days to provide any final submissions on their application.

The letter comes after nine cab companies in the Lower Mainland — Vancouver Cab Company, Black Top Cabs, MaClure’s Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, North Shore Taxi, Richmond Cabs, Bonny’s Taxi, Burnaby Select Metrotown Taxi, and Queen City Taxi — submitted a petition to the BC Supreme Court last month against new ride hailing in the province.

In the petition, the companies claimed that ride-hailing services “have had an extremely harmful impact on participants in the taxi industry.”

“The participants in the taxi industry… have suffered significant financial losses because of the virtually unrestrained competition [from ride-hailing services],” the petition reads. “In order to avoid this serious harm, it is of crucial importance for the taxi companies and owners in British Columbia that they be able to compete on equal terms.”

The petition came after the PTB announced ride-hailing guidelines earlier this summer that included allowing an unlimited number of vehicles in a wider geographical area than taxis have been allowed to operate in. It also announced that minimum ride-hailing rates will be based on taxi flag rates.

The petition sought an order “quashing or setting aside” the decision.

Speaking to Daily Hive on Thursday, BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal called the letter “another barrier” towards ride-hailing in the province.

“What this means is basically these guys all have to provide a business plan and make it public; and what happens is they will spend about seven days with the PTB, redacting and taking things out—things that can’t be made public – and then they’ll have 14 days to review it,” he said.

Only once the process is completed will the  the PTB look at the application, he added.

“This is a 21-day delay which is basically the PTB trying to cover their political backside when they have to justify some of these decisions,”said Johal. “This is now another barrier in regards to moving forward.”

Johal said prior to this letter, he “assumed we would have ride-hailing by Halloween to mid November.”

However, he said, if someone is starting this process now – even tomorrow – the 21-day process “takes us basically until the end of November before the application is even looked at” – essentially right around when the holiday season begins.

As a result, “there’s a lot of Christmas parties out there where you probably won’t see ride-hailing,” said Johal. “Can it be brought in before New Years Eve? My fingers are crossed ,but there’s no guarantee of that, because even though you go through this process, and get approval, it’s not like the next day you turn a key and you start.”

As for the timing of the letter at this stage in the game, Johal said that to his understanding, “this is a complete surprise; this was not something they expected and people are not happy that this is happened.”