Ridesharing companies still face 'key barrier' to entering BC

Nov 22 2018, 7:17 pm

While the BC government praised its new legislation this week as a move that will “open the door for ride-hailing companies to enter the market,” key players within that market are concerned that an amendment made to the Passenger Transportation Act (PTA) still offers little clarity on when ride-hailing services will be actually be in service on BC’s roads.

Known as Bill 55, the amendment empowers the Passenger Transportation Board (“PTB”) to independently establish and control a number of industry factors, including the total number of vehicles that can provide transportation services on BC roads.

As part of the PTB’s assessment to issue licenses to new market entrants, the body must consider the impact the issuance of additional licenses would have on existing service providers, including of course, taxis.

This, despite a report released this past summer, which proposed that the PTB not be granted authority to control licensing in this matter.

The concern here, is that this licensing criteria already exists today and has been a blocker to new businesses seeking to offer app-based ridesharing services such as Uber in BC.

For instance, in 2017, the PTB ruled against Ripe Ride’s application to make 150 additional taxis available via an app in Metro Vancouver. At the time, the PTB ruled that the application would not promote “sound economic conditions in the passenger transportation business in Metro Vancouver Regional District.” Taxis were subsequently given to existing companies.

The legislation also empowers the PTB to: set ridesharing fares which could end up costing as much as taxi; establish fleet size that may increases wait times, and maintain boundaries that could forces vehicles to return home empty.

One of the biggest players in the ridesharing industry, Uber, says the BC legislation — as it stands today — could potentially block them from being able to offer their service in the province.

“Unfortunately, Bill 55 maintains key barriers-to-entry that have prevented ridesharing from operating in BC,” said Uber’s Michael van Hemmen. “We believe there is still time to act and we’re committed to collaborate with government.”

He added that Uber will “continue to advocate on behalf of British Columbians who have been hoping for ridesharing for many years.”

Minister: Government “moved very quickly”

Speaking to Daily Hive earlier this week, BC’s transportation minister Claire Trevena said she knows people have frustrations around the issue.. “They want to have rideshare yesterday, I know that,” she quipped.

However, despite what many see as long delays, she also believes the government has “moved very quickly” on the issue.

“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.”

What the legislation does, she said, “is set the stage not only for ICBC, but also makes sure that it gets rid of overlap in jurisdictions.”

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.”

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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