B.C. government will usher Uber onto taxi turf by December

Taxi industry monopoly to be broken, but firms will get financial aid to make transition

Uber is a popular method to hail rides in other North American cities.

The B.C. government will break the taxi industry monopoly with new rules it says will allow ride-matching juggernaut Uber to fairly compete.

But at the same time it’s promising taxi firms significant reforms and financial support to make the transition.

That includes $1 million in support to finance their move toward a consistent ride-hailing app for shared dispatch of taxis across B.C., allowing riders to hail and pay via smartphone.

The province has been evaluating policy options to satisfy demand from the public to use Uber and other ride-matching services, but without triggering catastrophic damage to the incumbent taxi companies and families who depend on taxi jobs.

While the disruptive technology is praised by fans who say it is often more reliable than conventional cabs, it also has detractors who argue it is under-regulated and would suck away profits to the U.S.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone promised a “very thoughtful, very deliberate approach” over the next nine months, but said B.C. will welcome ride-sharing services like Uber by December.

“We want to make sure we get the work right,” Stone said. “We want to respect the jobs that are represented in the taxi industry.”

He said it’s clear the public wants not just more choice, but also convenience, accessibility and competition, without risk to passenger safety.

Taxis will get preferential treatment in certain areas.

Communities Minister Peter Fassbender said taxis will have exclusive right to street hailing and pickups from cab stands – Uber cars couldn’t simply be flagged down without using the app.

He said ICBC will also pay up to $3.5 million to install new crash avoidance technology in taxis as a means of helping taxi firms reduce their down time and resulting costs. Taxis that already installed the equipment in a pilot project will have their costs reimbursed.

Also promised is faster claim-handling for taxis.

“A taxi off the road is lost revenue for that company and for the drivers that use the vehicle.”

Fassbender estimated the new taxi-hailing app that’s to be developed could save the existing industry up to 25 per cent.

He also indicated that pending legislation will eliminate many of the existing rules that have constrained taxi companies for years.

Taxis will be allowed to pick up customers and drop them off anywhere – suburban cabs would no longer be barred from picking up fares in Vancouver or vice-versa.

Taxi companies also would no longer be under a licence cap – Fassbender said they could add more vehicles “if that is the business decision they want to make.”

Both taxi and ride-share drivers will have to be 19 years old, pass criminal record checks, pass a driver safety record check and vehicles will have to pass regular inspections.

Uber or other ride sharing drivers will have to have the same level of insurance, and taxi drivers will no longer need a Class 4 driver’s licence, but the same Class 5 licence as ride-share drivers.

“The new process that will be put in place will ensure as level a playing field as possible between ride-sharing companies and the taxi industry in the insurance that they will require to assure consumers that they are covered,” Fassbender said.

He also hinted that there may be ways to enable TransLink’s Compass card as a payment mechanism for taxis and ride-sharing.

The province is also promising to reform what it says is inconsistent municipal regulation of taxi companies to ensure a level playing field.

Uber uses surge pricing at high-demand times to attract additional drivers, so while passengers might not face as long a wait for a cab on New Year’s Eve they could expect to pay much more.

NDP MLA Harry Bains said he’s skeptical that the province’s direction will safeguard the taxi industry.

“It has all the elements to accommodate Uber,” Bains said. “I’m concerned that the way they’re approaching this it could destroy our hard-working small business taxi owners in the Lower Mainland.”

The NDP has not yet spelled out its future policy on ride-sharing and taxis.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BEHIND BARS: Relaxed and refreshed at The Palms

Sneak peek at Victoria’s freshest new bar

Ocie Elliott: Facing the Music

Victoria duo describes effects of COVID crisis

YOUR AUGUST HOROSCOPE: It’s Leo Season!

Georgia Nicols giving us insight on what lies ahead this summer

30 years later, Sue Medley’s hit ‘Dangerous Times’ more relevant than ever

Vancouver Island singer/songwriter reflects on her ’90s national hit

Psychological thriller filmed on northern Vancouver Island debuts on AppleTV

‘Woodland’ is set in Haida Gwaii, but was filmed around Port McNeill

Poetry contest started for Vancouver Island poets

“We’re such a unique group,” says founder on why she wanted to start the collective

Nanaimo Fringe Festival productions adapt to new online format

10th annual festival to be live-streamed due to COVID-19

Island pub wants people to ‘drop five’ to keep music alive

Royston’s Charlie Aiken thinks his plan can help artists and venues alike

First Arts Alive sculptures of 2020 now installed

Oak Bay’s annual public art exhibition starts anew

Nanaimo fantasy writer co-authoring Old Norse phrase book

Joshua Gillingham partnering with author and professor on ‘Old Norse for Modern Times’

Cowichan’s 39 Days of July deemed a success, despite COVID-19

Musical productions live streamed from the Duncan Showroom this year

Gabriola’s Isle of the Arts Festival goes ‘mini’ on 10th anniversary

Gabriola Arts Council presents scaled-down, workshop-only IOTA Mini festival

Most Read