A coalition of businesses and interest groups advocating for ride-hailing in British Columbia says legislation introduced this week will just create an expanded taxi industry, not the ride-hailing services that customers expect.
At the same time, one academic studying ride-hailing says the regulations proposed in British Columbia aren’t anything the industry hasn’t seen before.
Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for BC said Tuesday, November 20, 2018 the organization’s members are “bewildered” that the future of ride-hailing in the province remains uncertain and the government hasn’t committed to a start date for the service.
The coalition is especially concerned that the Passenger Transportation Board would have power to limit the number of drivers on the road, where they can drive, and also set rates, said Tostenson, who also represents the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.
“For those who understand ride-sharing, I always see it as an accordion, that the consumer drives how many cars are on the road at any point in time to handle the demand,” he said at a news conference in Vancouver.
“What we heard (Monday, November 20, 2018)) was a system that the transportation board is going to determine how many cars are on the road in any particular area at any particular time, which completely defeats the purpose, we think, of ride-sharing.”
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena introduced the legislation Monday, November 20, 2018 saying it balances consumer demand and public safety.
It proposes to give the Passenger Transportation Board expanded powers to accept applications and set terms and conditions for licences covering taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, she said. The independent tribunal would also have the authority to set rates and determine the number and coverage areas of the services.
A legislative committee to review and make changes to the system would also be appointed, she added.
Timothy Burr Jr., director of public policy for ride-hailing company Lyft, said the company sees the legislation as a “procedural step forward” but the regulation and rule-making process will come next.
Some of the regulations proposed, such as a requirement that drivers have a class four commercial licence, would limit the company’s ability to deliver “true” ride-hailing by making it onerous for drivers to sign up and comply, he said.
“Class four ignores the reality of how true ride-sharing would work. At Lyft, over 93 per cent of our drivers drive fewer than 20 hours (per week). These are folks who are looking for part-time economic opportunities and they want to use Lyft as additional income,” he said.
The company is used to working with legislators and regulators in many jurisdictions and remains committed to working with the B.C. government to bring the service to the province, he said.
But Shauna Brail, associate professor in urban studies at the University of Toronto, said British Columbia isn’t reinventing the wheel by regulating the industry.
Edmonton was the first Canadian city to regulate ride-hailing in 2016 and now 20 of Canada’s 30 largest cities have some form of regulations governing the operation of the services, she said.
“It’s possible that it’s a combination of a number of features from other jurisdictions that don’t all exist (elsewhere) as one set of regulations, but none of these are particularly brand new,” she said.
In August, New York City voted to cap the number of ride-hailing cars on the road after some studies showed congestion increased after the service was introduced, rather than decreased as expected, she said.
Brail agreed that controlling rates is more in line with the taxi industry than typical ride-hailing models. But Toronto charges companies like Uber a set fee per transaction, she said.
After Uber began operating in Edmonton, it temporarily pulled its service while the city developed an insurance plan for drivers and passengers, she said.
While British Columbia has been slow to join the game, Brail said, in some ways it has had the benefit of learning from others’ experience.
“They skipped over ride-hailing 1.0 and they’re at ride-hailing 2.0,” she said.