New policy changes could help enable ridehailing expansion into the Fraser Valley

Apr 7 2023, 1:42 am

The viability for ridehailing companies to expand their operating areas into the easternmost areas of the Lower Mainland could soon be aided by new changes in the licensing regulatory framework.

Since 2020, the Inter-municipal Business License (IMBL) for ridehailing within the Lower Mainland has been managed by the City of Vancouver.

This is a framework previously agreed upon by the region’s municipalities, given the need for a single municipal licensing authority and license fee to enable ridehailing services to operate across municipal borders. As well, much of the region’s demand for ridehailing services is situated within Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver collects the license revenue to cover its costs of managing the IMBL, and shares the annual net revenue with the IMBL’s participating municipalities.

By the end of May 2023, the respective City Councils of 28 municipal governments across the Lower Mainland, including the City of Vancouver, are expected to review and approve the addition of the Fraser Valley jurisdictions of the District of Hope, the District of Kent, and the City of Mission into the City of Vancouver-managed IMBL.

The addition of Hope, Kent, and Mission would be the first additions to the City of Vancouver-managed IMBL since 2020, when the IMBL was first created:

  1. City of Abbotsford
  2. Village of Anmore
  3. Bowen Island Municipality
  4. City of Burnaby
  5. City of Chilliwack
  6. City of Coquitlam
  7. City of Delta
  8. Village of Harrison Hot Springs
  9. District of Hope
  10. District of Kent
  11. City of Langley
  12. Township of Langley
  13. Village of Lions Bay
  14. City of Maple Ridge
  15. City of Mission
  16. City of New Westminster
  17. City of North Vancouver
  18. District of North Vancouver
  19. City of Pitt Meadows
  20. City of Port Coquitlam
  21. City of Port Moody
  22. City of Richmond
  23. District of Squamish
  24. City of Surrey
  25. City of Vancouver
  26. District of West Vancouver
  27. Resort Municipality of Whistler
  28. City of White Rock

Currently, Uber has the Lower Mainland’s largest operating service area, which is the area where the ridehailing app is programmed to pick-up passengers.

Uber’s area extends as far east to the western area of the Sumas Prairie, covering most of Abbotsford.

Both Abbotsford and Chilliwack are already part of the IMBL, and the inclusion of Hope, Kent, and Mission would fill the rest of the regional IMBL gap to the easternmost end of the Lower Mainland.

For example, if Uber were to expand into these easternmost jurisdictions, a ridehailing driver could more feasibly perform a trip from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs. Upon dropping off a passenger at Harrison Hot Springs, they can then attempt to pick up a passenger at Harrison Hot Springs or elsewhere in the eastern Fraser Valley. They would otherwise have a higher opportunity cost with the downtime of having to return to the operating area to the west to pick up their next passenger.

uber metro vancouver service area map april 2023 f

Uber’s service area in the Lower Mainland as of April 2023. (Uber)

lyft metro vancouver service area map april 2023 f

Lyft’s service area in the Lower Mainland as of April 2023. (Lyft)

Although the regulations have been simplified, Uber has suggested it has no plans to expand its service area to these easternmost communities at this time.

“A decision to launch rideshare in any community is dependent on market conditions and regulatory complexity. Provincial legislation and/or municipal bylaws often need to be modernized so that transportation network companies like Uber can operate seamlessly, safely, and compliantly,” said Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang in a statement to Daily Hive Urbanized.

Lyft’s operating area ends at the easternmost edge of Metro Vancouver — at the eastern borers of Maple Ridge and Langley. While Lyft does not serve the western Fraser Valley like Uber, its service area extends onto Bowen Island and as far north as Lions Bay on the Sea to Sky Highway — areas not served by Uber. Lyft could not be reached in time for publication.

Rang adds that Uber’s focus with expanding in BC is to launch its services in Victoria and Kelowna. The province’s independent Passenger Transportation Board is in the process of reviewing Uber’s application to take over an existing ridehailing license held by another entity in order to operate in Victoria and Kelowna, which are now amongst the largest markets in Canada without Uber.

Both Squamish and Whistler have been part of the IMBL since 2020, but Uber and Lyft have yet to extend their service areas that far north along the Sea to Sky Highway.

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