Vancouver could become the region's business licensing authority for ride-hailing

Feb 19 2020, 3:24 pm

The City of Vancouver is set to decide next week whether it will become the sole licensing authority for the interim municipal business licence (IMBL) for ride-hailing across Metro Vancouver.

This follows TransLink’s Mayors’ Council’s approval of the IMBL framework late last month, which proposed having the City of Vancouver becoming the licensing authority on behalf of participating municipalities in Metro Vancouver and other subregions of ride-hailing’s Region 1.

Although there are some slight differences in fee structures, the IMBL policy closely resembles the City of Vancouver’s previous municipal business licence.

The IMBL will have an annual IMBL fee of $155 per company, plus $150 per standard vehicle, $30 per zero-emission vehicle, and $0 for wheelchair-accessible vehicle. A regional business licence allows ride-hailing companies and their drivers to purchase one licence to operate ride-hailing in participating regional municipalities.

These non-prohibitive fees align with the Passenger Transportation Board’s policies for ride-hailing, which stipulates that only the independent provincial tribunal can regulate ride-hailing’s boundaries and fleet sizes. The local-level fees are set at levels that do not override this provincial policy, serving only to be cost recoverable for municipalities.

The City of Vancouver will retain the funds to recover its costs of setting up and administrating the regional licence program, which is estimated at $140,000 for the first year, including privacy management, legal services, policy development, overhead, materials and rent, and licence processing.

Any remaining funds will be distributed amongst the participating municipalities based on the percentage of the total regional pick-ups and drop-offs that occur within each municipal jurisdiction.

Staff of prospective participating municipal governments are bringing their reports to city councils between now and March to approve of their usage of the IMBL for their jurisdiction.

The IMBL will take effect on April 1, 2020 for all municipalities that have approved the policy. For any participating municipalities that enact the bylaw after this launch date, the IMBL within their jurisdiction will come into effect on the day of enactment.

This interim regional licence was expedited so that it could be ready as soon as possible for the launch of ride-hailing services in Metro Vancouver. Currently, only Uber and Lyft are operating services in the region.

Refinements to the IMBL — towards creating a permanent framework — could be made over the coming months.

“Because the terms of the proposed ride-hailing IMBL were developed on a compressed timeline, they should be considered as interim. Staff of participating municipalities will continue to collaborate over the coming months on opportunities for refinement of a permanent ride-hailing IMBL,” reads a city staff report.

“There may be additional opportunities to encourage wheelchair accessible or zero emission vehicles, and to adjust the licence fee structure. As more companies are licensed and staff better understand the true costs for licensing and for monitoring industry impacts, such changes can be considered.”