B.C. looks to introduce controlled ridesharing with cap on vehicles and stricter regulation of drivers
by Mike Beggs
After several years of waiting, British Columbia residents will soon find themselves privy to the pros and cons of ridesharing.
On November 20, the NDP government announced it is set to introduce legislation paving the way for companies like Lyft and Uber – but not until some time in 2019, or 2020.
The NDP had campaigned on the promise of ridesharing, but has pushed it back repeatedly, pending further study.
The Passenger Transportation Amendment Act would include: a cap on the number of PTC vehicles: significant changes to insurance packages for PTC drivers; strict criminal record checks; and the requirement of a tougher Code 4 driver’s license.
“This is milestone legislation that gets ride-sharing right for B.C.,” stated Transportation Minister Claire Trevana in a press release.
“British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around, but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one.”
She told the legislature B.C. has “learned from other jurisdictions where ride-sharing services were authorized without question”, and that the province intends to avoid issues like gridlock, and declining use of public transit.
Uber Western Canada spokesman Michael van Hemmen voiced concerns about a cap on the number of PTC drivers.
“We’re looking at a model that allows as many people as possible to safely participate,” he says. “So if you’ve got a safe driving record, you will be able to give a ride to a friend, a colleague, or a stranger via the Uber app, to help reduce impaired driving, among other challenges for our transportation system.”
Vancouver is among the last big Canadian cities without ridesharing.
And, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson was upset that, once again, there would be no ridesharing in time for Christmas. (Meanwhile, hundreds of additional taxis were put on the road for the holiday season).
But Premier John Horgan stated, “We want to make sure that the playing field is level for those that are already in the sector, and those new entrants. A lot of work to do, but we’re confident that we’re well on our way, and the legislation will set the table for that into the new year.”
Mark Sexsmith, manager of Mississauga’s All-Star Taxi deemed it “a step in the right direction” for B.C. to follow Kingston and New York’s lead in capping the number of PTC’s , and impose stricter standards for drivers.
“Eventually all municipalities will have to move this way,” he suggests. “You can’t have people out there without a clue what they’re doing.”
“(Most of these municipalities), they’re never proactive. (The ridesharing phenomenon) it’s all part and parcel of deregulation of the ground transportation system, and they think all the savings can be passed along to the consumer. They forget these rules were put in place for a reason.”
While stressing that “nothing has been drafted yet”, Beck Taxi operations manager Kristine Hubbard expects the rules for TNC’s to be similar to those for the taxi business.
“It’s really interesting. The times are changing, and people are realizing (TNC’s are) a taxi service,” she offers.
“(But) it’s really hard to know what’s going to happen with the cap on the number of vehicles.”
Meanwhile on December 17, the Town of Oakville unanimously approved a new bylaw, licensing TNC’s.
And taxi industry members are furious.
In a deputation, Oakville resident and veteran Mississauga plate-holder Peter Pellier warned Council members that in attempting to create a level playing field between taxis and PTC’s, the proposed Taxi Bylaw 2016-05, “falls well short of the mark, and TNC’s will continue to receive preferential treatment.”
He noted while the number of taxis remains strictly controlled, “self-regulated PTC’s face no such restrictions”.
“Not only does this create a huge advantage with respect to the provision of timely service, but it also exacerbates the pernicious problem of gridlock plaguing the Town,” he stated, in calling for a cap on PTC’s.
He also questioned provisions to eliminate the standard tariff and the customer bill of rights, and to raise the model year restriction to 10 years.
“This will open the door to consumer abuse, price gouging, high-mileage mechanically-unfit cars, and an overall decline in the quality of service,” he said.
Pellier also predicted that with Uber and Lyft allowed to operate virtually at will, Oakville cab operators can expect their revenues and plate values to continue their downward spiral.
“So much for decades of faithful service to the people of Oakville. So much for the opportunity to retire with dignity,” he told the Council.