Claiming that ride-hailing services, “have had an extremely harmful impact on participants in the taxi industry,” nine cab companies in the Lower Mainland have submitted a petition against new ride-hailing in the province to the BC Supreme Court.
The petition was jointly filed by 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, this week.
“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.”
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According to the petition, there is “no doubt” that ride-hailing companies “are providing passenger transportation services in direct competition with the taxi companies.”
Unlike the cab companies though, “which have a telephone dispatch option,” the ride-hailing business model is “confined” to people who have the appropriate app.
Ride-hailing companies “seek to capture the large and increasing segment of the market that prefers to order passenger transportation services on their smartphone, rather than by phone call, or trying to hail one on the street,” the petition states.
The issue, it furthers, is that these businesses “want to grow and dominate” a large portion of the market “without complying to the rules… that apply to taxi companies.”
Last month, the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) announced ride-hailing guidelines 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 seeks an order “quashing or setting aside” the decision.
“The cornerstone of the regulation of the taxi industry has always been the limit on the number of taxi licenses that are granted for a particular geographic area,” it states. “These limits have been implemented to prevent the destructive competition that would occur if there were unlimited entry into this field.”
BC premier, transportation minister respond to concerns
In response, BC Minster of Transportation Claire Trevena penned a letter to PTB chair Catharine Read this week, to “relay [the] widespread concerns related to the introduction of ride-hailing services.”
In her letter, Trevena wrote that while the PTB stated there are no limits on fleet size at this point, this decision, “should be reviewed in a timely way to ensure that the viability of the taxi industry alongside TNS services and that the taxi industry does not experience serious economic dislocation before a supply cap or decision occurs.”
Trevena also expressed concern over “the potential for an increase in congestion on already clogged roads,” noting that “several” Metro Vancouver mayors have written to her regarding the issue.
“The issue of congestion is a concern our government shares,” she writes. “I trust that the impact of increased congestion will be monitored closely by the board and will factor heavily into future decisions around size limits.”
Speaking to reporters about the issue this week, BC Premier John Horgan said he “welcomes the services” that ride-hailing companies will provide.
However, “we also want to make sure that the family businesses that have been regulated for decades don’t just find themselves on the sidewalk with nothing to do.
As such, he continued, “we ‘re working as hard as we can to find a balance.”
Asked about potential blowback from the taxi industry in the next provincial election, Horgan said “we’ll just have to see,” and quipped that “there’s a consequence every time a decision is made.”
Horgan said he’s doing his “level best” to “meet the needs of as many people as possible, and if, along the way, there are people uncomfortable with that, so be it.”
The PTB began accepting rideshare service applications this past Tuesday, and both Uber and Lyft submitted their applications on the same day.