Metro Vancouver taxi companies lose court challenge against Uber and Lyft

Jan 26 2021, 3:53 am

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has rejected the legal challenge by the Vancouver Taxi Association (VTA) against ridehailing’s entry into the Metro Vancouver market.

Shortly after Uber and Lyft’s launch in January 2020, nine local taxi companies — including Yellow Cab, Black Top, MacLure’s Vancouver Taxi, North Shore Taxi, Richmond Cabs, Bonny’s, Burnaby Select Metrotown, and Queen City — filed a court petition against not only Uber and Lyft, but also the provincial Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) for permitting the launch of the transportation network services (TNS).

The VTA claimed the ridehailing companies are “just another type of taxi,” and that traditional taxi companies were being put in a significant disadvantage. They argued the PTB had not performed its due diligence of putting greater weight on the negative impact to taxi businesses.

Their petition focused on the lack of ridehailing fleet size limits, and asserted that “the [taxi] industry had basically no notice that ride-hailing would be introduced in a totally unregulated fashion.”

However, Justice Sandra Wilkinson’s written ruling on Wednesday sided with the PTB, Uber, and Lyft, concluding that nothing in the regulatory authority’s “reasoning is obviously untenable, clearly irrational, evidently not in accordance with reason, almost bordering on the absurd, or so flawed that no amount of curial deference can justify letting it stand.”

“The Board observed that in considering this factor it strives to balance the public need for available, accessible, and reliable commercial passenger transportation services with overall industry viability and competitiveness. The Board explained it takes a wide-ranging perspective and considers possible harm to other industry participants when assessing this factor. The Board further stated that the economic needs of the passenger transportation business overall weigh more heavily than the economic and financial interests of any particular applicant or submitter.”

On the specific matter of limiting fleet sizes, Wilkinson wrote that the PTB stated such a measure timed with the initial launch of TNS in BC would be premature for a range of reasons.

“The Board determined that capping fleet size at the outset of Uber’s and Lyft’s operations would not be appropriate because of the specific nature of their business models and the lack of an empirically substantiated basis for capping fleet size at this time,” she wrote, adding that the Class 4 drivers license requirement was noted as another factor by the companies that would slow their pace of expansion.

“The Board stated that by not setting an initial fleet size and waiting to accumulate data, supply and demand can be balanced with the goal of meeting public need for service, providing sound economic conditions, and addressing environmental concerns.”

Transportation demand for taxi and ridehailing services is currently depressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit just weeks after the launch of Uber and Lyft’s services in Metro Vancouver.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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