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Failure to Launch: Ride-Share Edition

Have you ever heard of Uber? What about Lyft?  You probably have, but only through rumour or during trips outside of B.C.  These mythical companies have been successfully serving areas like Toronto, Calgary, and the U.S. nationwide for years.  And yet, in B.C. we have experienced a complete failure to launch these ride-share programs.

This is not for lack of effort on the part of some, however.  The NDP made grandiose promises of Uber and Lyft if they were to get elected.  To an extent, they do have a plan in place to deliver.  However, their plan is strict and has a very real chance of failure.

Rumour has it that as early as September 16th, 2019 the ride-share program may go live.  The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) will be accepting applications from the ride-hailing companies as early as September 3rd.  The PTB will be responsible for setting the guidelines for these companies.

PTB Regulations

The PTB will require criminal record checks and annual driving records for any of the drivers operating under the ride-share companies.  That sounds great to most of us, as we want to know that our driver knows how to drive safely.

Additionally, the PTB will have a 30-cent per-trip fee and a $5,000 annual license fee for the companies.  That doesn’t sound too bad either.  Most of us can swallow paying a 30-cent fee per ride to the PTB.  However, some of the regulations are significantly more cumbersome.


Cell phone zombies


“Drivers working for ride-hailing companies are still required to hold a Class 4 commercial license, a requirement supported by B.C.’s police chiefs association.”  This regulation is insisted upon by the NDP.  Alberta also holds this requirement, but nowhere else in Canada does.

According to Lyft, “commercial licenses for ride-hailing drivers will not improve safety but will increase waiting times and benefit the taxi industry, because the requirement will limit the driver supply.”

Furthermore, “Ninety-one percent of the drivers on [their] platform drive less than 20 hours a week.  These are people like single moms, students in school and people trying to supplement their incomes…As soon as you introduce that Class 4 commercial license, these people tend not to apply for that type of work.”

What Is A Class 4 License?

There are two types of Class 4 licenses: unrestricted and restricted.  The restricted Class 4 is the license required in B.C. to become a driver for companies such as Uber or Lyft.  This type of restricted license allows one to drive a taxi, limo, or any vehicle carrying fewer than 10 people.

B.C. Taxi Association Approves

Not surprisingly, the B.C. Taxi Association approves of the Class 4 requirement.  In our previous article, “Taxi Roulette: Will They Take You?” we discussed the myriad of issues we have in B.C. with being able to hail a taxi.  Introducing ride-hailing and ride-sharing programs would inevitably decrease the demand for taxis.  Factors such as lower rates, rate-previews, and the ability to rate your driver all support the idea that the taxi companies would be negatively impacted.

“Drivers are rated by their customers for each trip and, with some companies, drivers are required to maintain a certain rating level to remain on the platform.  Passenger ratings of each trip will influence driving behaviour, which is the major complaint against taxi drivers.”

Ultimately, we want ride-share programs.  We need Uber, we need Lyft.  The skepticism about receiving applicants for these companies due to the strict licensing requirements are justified.  However, it is our hope that while it may be an initial deterrent, these companies can still successfully establish themselves in Vancouver.  26 days and counting!