Ride hailing is operating in Toronto and other North American cities, but B.C. hasn’t licensed any services yet. (Flickr)

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board has released rules for ride hailing companies that want to operate in the province, including larger regions than those imposed on taxi services.

Ride hailing companies such as Lyft, which has indicated it will expand to B.C., and Uber, which operates in other large cities, can be licensed for a single operating zone that includes Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Squamish-Whistler, or other large regions of the province.

Board chair Catherine Read acknowledged Monday that taxi companies are opposed to this, because the board continues to restrict their pickup zones to Surrey and other historical operating limits of competing taxi companies.

Read said the minimum “flag rate” charged by taxis to pick up a customer will also apply to ride hailing companies, but higher “surge pricing” rates will be allowed so ride hailing providers will be attracted to serve peak demand times where taxis have often run short of cars.

The number of ride hailing vehicles licenced for each zone will not be limited at first. Ride hailing fleets take time to build up, and that is especially the case for B.C. where a Class 4 commercial driver’s licence is required, Read said.

“No one else in Canada caps fleet size, and we’re not capping fleet size either.”

Regional district boundaries are used to define five ride hailing operating zones in B.C.: Lower Mainland-Whistler, Capital, Vancouver Island outside the capital region, Okanagan-Kootenay-Boundary-Cariboo and a fifth region taking in the rest of the province. Once they apply, operators can specify which part of the region they wish to provide service for.

Lyft representative Peter Lukomskyj said the company was looking for a province-wide operation rather than region by region, but it appreciates that taxi-style municipal boundaries and fleet caps have not been imposed.

“Our vision is to one day offer our proven transportation network throughout the province, but the Class 4 commercial licensing requirement will make it more difficult for us to deliver the reliable ridesharing service B.C. residents have been requesting for years,” Lukomskyj said.

The board has released its application packages and details for those wishing to apply for a licence. Applications will be accepted starting Sept. 3, but Read said it will take time to process them, take submissions from those who want to comment, and have the board issue licences “later in this calendar year.”

Ride hailing companies will not be required to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles. Legislation passed by the B.C. NDP government this spring provides for a 30-cent fee on every trip in a non-accessible vehicle, and has indicated the money will be put toward disability access.


@tomfletcherbc
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