VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Why is the provincial government dragging its heels when it comes to ride hailing? That’s what some advocates are saying, a day after the NDP announced it could take at least another year before we see companies like Uber and Lyft on the road.
There are calls for the province to get on with it.
David Clement with the Consumer Choice Center says he suspects ride-hailing hasn’t already been approved in B.C. because the government is under pressure to protect the status quo.
“The taxi industry in major cities is obviously the loudest voice against ride sharing — mostly because they don’t want to have to deal with the competition and I think that’s what we’re seeing here,” he says.
“It’s embarrassing that the government of BC can’t get its affairs in order when other jurisdictions –whether they be in major cities or provinces — have been able to answer this question in a matter of weeks,” he adds.
Clement says customers and business leaders are demanding increased competition in the taxi industry and he doesn’t believe government’s reasoning that the priority is safety. He argues the longer we wait, the more likely it is that some people will choose to drink and drive.
“There’s lots of research that shows that the availability of these services significantly decreases impaired driving and so, they’re grasping for any excuse they can to continue to postpone and to continue to drag their feet.”
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Benn Proctor, a ride-hailing advocate who has extensively studied the taxi industry, supports criminal record checks for drivers and other safety measures already in place elsewhere, but he suspects that’s not really why BC’s further delaying approval.
“It could be that they’ve got a stakeholder base who really doesn’t want ride hailing to be introduced in the province and so, this is sort of a very convenient way to sort of point the finger at safety or even accessible issues because I actually think accessibility would improve with ride hailing allowed.”
“The devil’s in the details about how they set up the system because right now, they seem to favour the incumbent, existing taxi industry. In fact, depending on how they announce the introduction of ride-sharing two years from now, maybe, they could still continue to favour the existing industry,” adds Proctor, who is an analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center.
Proctor thinks it comes down to political will. “I think Vancouverites and British Columbians… like to travel. So, they know there’s really a much better way to do this. I think British Columbians are waking up.”
Uber says thousands of users in Vancouver already have its app
Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s general manager of cities for Western Canada, admits he’s disappointed that it could be the fall of 2019 before Uber and Lyft are allowed to pick up customers in Vancouver. He says in this city, thousands of would-be users already have the app on their phones.
“More than half a million British Columbians and visitors have opened the Uber app in BC, trying to find a ride,” he claims.
“We hear frustration every day from people who want to have the same access to transportation options in Vancouver that are available in every other major city in North America and we want to work with the government to make that happen, as well.”
van Hemmen says a quarter million British Columbians have used Uber elsewhere. He claims polls suggest 91 per cent of people in Metro Vancouver either are in strong support or “can accept” Uber and Lyft in B.C.
When asked if he believes the provincial government is deliberately stalling approval, van Hemmen insists all it takes is a little political will to make ride hailing a reality by the end of this year.
Both van Hemmen and Clement say ride-hailing could easily be a reality by the end of this year, but Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has been suggesting it may take longer to ensure safety concerns are properly addressed.
The only immediate action being taken is the addition of up to 500 cabs across the province and existing taxi operators will soon be allowed to lower prices during quiet periods.