Ride hailing services in B.C. should not be held back by imposed geographic boundaries and caps on how many vehicles can participate, an all-party committee of MLAs has recommended to the provincial government.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says she is open to considering taking off regional driver caps and boundaries, restrictions similar to taxi service that were imposed with changes to the Passenger Transportation Board licensing system the NDP government has put in place.
Trevena spoke Tuesday after the MLA committee released its report, built on submissions from taxi and ride hailing companies as well as other interested parties. She said the Class 4 commercial driver’s licence is in place for ride hailing in Alberta, and it’s a safety requirement that will be kept in place as ride hailing companies are licensed by the end of this year.
Premier John Horgan later agreed with the commercial licence requirement and said he expects services will be operating in B.C. before the end of 2019.
After delaying the licensing of smartphone app-based service and enabling an increase in taxi licences, the NDP government passed legislation last fall limiting the number of drivers and where they can operate. The legislation also requires drivers to obtain a Class 4 commercial licence like taxi and bus drivers.
B.C. Liberal MLAs on the committee said a majority on the committee recommended against the licence restriction. Surrey South MLA Stephanie Cadieux, the deputy chair of the committee, said the restriction will prevent part-time drivers, particularly women, from entering the ride hailing market.
Cadieux said the NDP’s effort to get taxis into the market first with an app called Kater that is rolling out in the Lower Mainland is not going to meet the flexible demand of drivers and customers.
“Kater is lipstick on a pig,” Cadieux said. “It is not ride hailing.”
B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal said more taxis may be licensed in large urban areas, but only true ride hailing services such as Lyft and Uber can reach into smaller communities around B.C.
“This is about Terrace, it’s about Kitimat,” Johal said.
Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s representative for Western Canada, said the recommendations to remove driver caps and geographical restrictions on trips would bring Vancouver into the same league as Calgary, Toronto and Seattle, which have had ride hailing operating for some time.
“Uber is encouraged that the report’s recommendations reflect the expert advice put forward by the province’s own consultant, Translink and others,” van Hemmen said. “Now is the time to finalize ride sharing regulations and have ICBC make a ride sharing insurance product.”