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No limits on B.C. ride-hailing fleet sizes

Last Updated Aug 19, 2019 at 7:58 pm PDT

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a ride share car displays Lyft and Uber stickers on its front windshield in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Uber and Lyft won't have to cap how many drivers they can hire in B.C., but there will be limits in the Vancouver market

Restrictions on fleet sizes could be imposed later

Regional boundaries for the new services are wider

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will be allowed to hire as many drivers as they want when they begin operating this fall, at least initially.

Catharine Read, Chair of the independent Passenger Transportation Board, says the restrictions on fleet sizes could come later. A cap could be introduced if the large fleet sizes increase congestion, for example.

Ride-sharing services will also be required to set a minimums based on taxi flag rates.

“For example, in Metro Vancouver, flag rates for taxis tend to be between $3.25 to $3.95 when you step inside a cab. So that will be the minimum rate that a transportation network service may charge. Transportation network services (ex. Uber)  will also not be able to use coupons or discounts,” she says.

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And even though there will be minimum charges, there won’t be any maximums, meaning high surge rates are possible.

Read says ride-hailing services will be required to provide estimates of how much the trip will cost, or charge an up-front cost.

“If a passenger thinks the far is too high, they can take a taxi or alternative transportation,” she says.

Regional boundaries for the new services are wider than they currently are for cab drivers who will be allowed to moonlight as Uber or Lyft contractors.

“The model relies on a large pool of vehicles and drivers, and a large number of passengers who use an app to set and collect fares. Boundaries need to be large enough for the (ride-hailing) business model to work,” Read says.

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As for the busy cruise ship season, app-based services will see some restrictions.

Companies working in Vancouver won’t be able to pick up passengers around Canada Place on cruise ship days, something meant to make sure traffic continues to flow and pedestrians can move around the area safely. Coal Harbour won’t be affected.

An area near the cruise ship terminal could be used as a staging area for operators, if municipal authorities give the go-ahead.

Taxi association: new rules a betrayal by Premier

In the view of Carolyn Bauer with the Vancouver Taxi Association, the new rules represent broken promises from Premier John Horgan.

A major concern is the lack of fleet size limits for ride-hailing firms. She now has questions about how this will affect the financial viability of local cab companies.

“Cheaper rates, cheaper insurance, and as many vehicle as they wants. All we’ve ever asked for, and all we’ve ever said is give us a level playing field. We did not receive that,” she says.

“How is this fair? This is not fair what they have done to us, and it’s not that we’re crying or whining or saying this is unfair and we want the taxis only to operate, we’ve never said that.”

The association is now in discussions with its lawyers and plans to hold further talks with the province to further outline its concerns.

Lyft pleased with some new rules

At least one ride-hailing company is expressing its approval of some of the new ride-hailing rules, but not without some concerns.

Lyft says its pleased the model won’t include municipal boundaries or caps, for now.

“While we are disappointed that the regulations do not include a provincial boundary, we are pleased that large geographic regions were taken into account. Our vision is to one day offer our proven transportation network throughout the province, but the Class 4 commercial licencing requirement will make it more difficult for us to deliver the reliable ridesharing service B.C. residents have been requesting for years,” Peter Lukomskyj, General Manager for Lyft B.C. said in a written statement.

“We are committed to B.C. and will continue to work with the PTB and the Province to create the conditions for us to bring Lyft to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year, and to more regions throughout B.C. in the future.”