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.

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

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway

Abbotsford International Airport. Black Press file photo.
Abbotsford Airport had 4th highest traffic in Canada in 2020, and its number are down

Statistics Canada report describes a ‘devastating year’ for air travel

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

Chilliwack’s Ryan Wugalter with his kids, three-year-old Mira and 15-month-old Solomon. Wugalter recently released his children’s album Super Giraffe. (Submitted)
Chilliwack father releases children’s album, songs about superhero giraffe and not eating magnets

Inspiration for Ryan Wugalter’s new album ‘Super Giraffe’ came from his two young kids

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Judith Uwamahoro is Black, approximately 4’7″ tall, 80 pounds and has short black hair and brown eyes. (Surrey RCMP handout)
UPDATED: Lower Mainland 9-year-old located after police make public plea

Judith Uwamahoro went missing Friday at around 4 p.m. in Surrey

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Inez Louis, who is strategic operations planner with the health department in the Sto:lo Service Agency, talks about infection control in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Nurse Inez Louis explains how infection control is not social control

The difference is important for Indigenous people to hear in the context of Canada’s colonial past

Five-year-old Nancy Murphy wears a full mask and face shield as she waits in line for her kindergarten class to enter school during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Variant of concern linked to COVID-19 outbreak at three Surrey schools

Cases appear to be linked to community transmissions, but schools will remain open

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Most Read