By Dirk Meissner
THE CANADIAN PRESS
VICTORIA _ Taxi drivers in B.C. will soon be able to purchase the same kind of insurance available to the ride-hailing industry, the transportation minister said Thursday.
Claire Trevena said talks are also underway with the taxi industry to ensure sustained and improved services for passengers with disabilities.
The province has been working for several months with the Insurance Corp. of B.C. and the taxi industry to provide insurance based on the per-kilometre distance travelled with passengers in their vehicles, which is equivalent to what is offered to ride-hailing vehicles, she said in a statement.
“In the near future, taxi drivers who want this new product will be able to switch their insurance, with coverage beginning in the spring. Drivers who wish to keep their current form of coverage will not be affected.”
Trevena said talks are underway as well with the taxi industry to ensure sustained and improved services for passengers with disabilities. Those discussions involve providing the taxi industry with a portion of the 30-cent trip fee that ride-hailing companies must contribute toward a passenger accessibility fund because their licences don’t require them to provide vehicles for disabled passengers.
The minister’s announcement follows petitions filed in British Columbia Supreme Court by the Vancouver Taxi Association alleging unfairness over the licence approvals for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.
Meanwhile, Uber has filed an injunction application in the Supreme Court after Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said city bylaw officers will ticket the company’s drivers operating there.
The taxi association documents, which ask the court to quash the licence approvals for Uber and Lyft, say the rules that require taxi firms to provide costly wheelchair accessible vehicles do not apply to the ride-hailing companies. A hearing is set for Tuesday in Vancouver.
In an interview Tuesday, Trevena said it was “unfortunate” passengers with mobility issues could face service issues connected to disputes over the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C.
“We want people with mobility challenges and accessibility challenges to have as many options for transportation as possible,” she said.
Taxi association lawyer Peter Gall said the companies will argue in court that Uber and Lyft have unfair advantages over the taxi industry. The advantages include no restrictions on vehicle numbers or charge rates and no requirements to provide wheelchair accessible taxis, he said.
“If we’re going to do something which costs more, they should either have to provide the same service, which they can’t, or they should be contributing to the cost of the service,” he said.
Gall said taxi drivers will continue to pick up passengers with disabilities.
Trevena defended the government’s approach to ride-hailing after a contentious first week in Metro Vancouver.
“While efforts continue to ensure safety and fairness, I am proud that our government refused to back down against pressures to abandon our regulatory measures on ride hailing,” she said in the statement. “As a result, British Columbia now has the highest safety standards in North America.”