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Transportation minister raising concerns about ride-hailing cap impact on taxi industry, traffic

Last Updated Sep 4, 2019 at 6:50 pm PDT

FILE: Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday July 2, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.'s Transportation Minister says some concerns need to be addressed before ride-hailing is legal

Claire Trevena sent a letter to the Passenger Transportation Board about the impact on taxi industry and traffic

She is quick to reject suggestions she's interfering with the independent review process

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s transportation minister is asking the independent body overseeing ride-hailing to consider what not capping fleet sizes could mean for the taxi industry and traffic congestion.

Claire Trevena has written a letter to the Passenger Transportation Board to relay “widespread concerns” about the caps, emphasizing her letter should not be seen as a directive from the government about what to decide, but rather as a request to look into some concerns she has been hearing.

RELATED: Nearly 160,000 people in B.C. have licenses needed for ride-hailing

In the letter, she writes the government wants the Passenger Transportation Board to review data on caps on fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies in a timely manner as to whether or not the sizes are having a negative impact on the taxi industry.

“As such, it is our government’s view that this decision should be reviewed in a timely way to ensure the viability of the taxi industry alongside (ride hailing) and that the taxi industry does not experience serious economic dislocation before a supply or cap decision occurs,” she writes.

She also writes that she has concerns about what more drivers could mean for traffic congestion.

“Several Metro Vancouver Mayors have written to me regarding this issue following the announcement of the PTB decision on supply. The issue of congestion is a concern our government shares, as we work to improve transportation for people in our province and reduce (greenhouse gases). I trust the impact of increased congestion will be monitored closely by the Board and will factor heavily into future decisions around fleet size limits,” she writes.

Not interference, but genuine concern: minister

Trevena is quick to reject any suggestion that she is interfering with the independent approval process, insisting the letter shouldn’t be taken as a policy directive from the government.

“The Passenger Transportation Board is obviously an independent body, but I felt it my responsibility to convey those concerns to the board,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure that the board was aware of these concerns and considered them when they are making their decisions when they get more evidence and more data.”

RELATED: B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

She adds the board may already be aware of issues including increased traffic congestion and the need for fleet sizes to be capped.

“It is early days. We’ve had a number of applications come in. I think it’s very exciting for people who have been waiting so long to actually see that after seven years, that they are going to see ride-hail thanks to our government,” she says.

Companies including Lyft, Uber and the locally-based Kater have already filed the necessary paperwork, but it could take more than a month for them to be approved.

Lyft: we are willing to work with gov’t to bring ride-hailing

Lyft is responding to the minister’s letter, saying it’s happy to work with the government on following regulations around the industry:

We appreciate the Passenger Transportation Board’s independent, data-based decision-making process, which outlined regulations that do not include municipal boundaries and caps at this time. Artificially capping service would cause wait times and prices for passengers to increase, and reduce earning opportunities for drivers. It is clear that the current restrictions imposed on taxis, including caps and municipal boundaries, limit service when people need it the most and leave residents stranded.

As we have done in Ontario, we are open to working with the government as they assess regulations with the region’s most up-to-date data in the future. We will continue to work with all levels of government to bring our world-class ridesharing service to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year, and to more regions throughout the province in the future.

– With files from Liza Yuzda