TransLink suggests zero-emission vehicle requirements for ride-hailing

Jun 30 2020, 5:52 pm

Regional mayors last week approved a recommendation by TransLink staff to ask the provincial government to establish greenhouse gas requirements for ride-hailing vehicles.

The public transit authority says there was a rapid uptake in ride-hailing over the two-month period between the approval and launch of Uber and Lyft’s services and the sudden onset of the health crisis.

“We anticipate this sector post-pandemic to return and potentially have an impact on our ability to achieve our greenhouse gas targets,” said Eve Hou, manager of policy development at TransLink, during last week’s Mayors’ Council meeting.

The main issue at hand is “deadheading” — the period when drivers drive to the next pickup location empty. It is anticipated this accounts for 20% to 50% of the vehicle’s travel.

Currently, the provincial government’s policies for ride-hailing vehicles do not address greenhouse gas requirements, other than mandating that the maximum age of ride-hailing vehicles be 10 years plus one month.

Moreover, this is inconsistent with the fuel economy requirements taxi vehicles have been required to follow since 2007.

The public transit authority suggests the exploration of mandatory greenhouse gas requirements for ride-hailing, such as establishing a company fleet fuel economy target, meeting an electric-battery vehicle fleet proportion target, and meeting a greenhouse gas emission target allowing for compliance flexibility.

In 2018, California adopted a “Clean Miles Standard” for ride-hailing that requires achieving interim goals through 2022, when companies are required to develop a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan that includes increasing the proportion of drivers using zero-emission vehicles.

Earlier this month, Lyft announced it will transition its drivers around the world towards achieving its new goal of establishing a 100% electric-battery vehicle fleet by 2030.

But as municipal governments and TransLink do not have the authority to implement mandatory greenhouse gas requirements, as it could be interpreted as a violation of provincial regulations that prohibit cities from prohibiting or controlling the number of ride-hailing vehicles, the provincial government is deemed best positioned to establish the regulations.

Currently, within the constraints of existing regulations, the Intermunicipal Business License for ride-hailing covering Metro Vancouver and parts of the Fraser Valley and Sea to Sky Highway — regulated by the City of Vancouver, and formed by TransLink in partnership with local governments — provides incentives for the use of zero-emission vehicles. This includes a nominal $30 annual licensing fee for zero-emission vehicles (a $150 fee for conventional vehicles). Additionally, the City of Vancouver’s policies provide incentives for zero-emission vehicles in terms of a 50% discounted pick-up and drop-off fee.

Continued calls for the provincial government to amend its policies for the taxi industry that remove the municipal-based operational jurisdictional boundaries would also not only create a “level playing field” with ride-hailing but also eliminate much of the deadheading activity of taxi vehicles.

“What is needed — and what we have been asking for many months now — is the needed focus on removing archaic government red tape which forces taxis to drive back empty (deadhead) after dropping off passengers in neighbouring municipalities,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade, in a statement.

“Deadheading leads to inefficient use of taxi fleets, increased congestion, GHG emissions, higher costs, longer wait times for passengers and lower-income for drivers.”