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Vancouver approval of annual driver fee bump in the road for ride-hailing

Last Updated Oct 3, 2019 at 12:43 pm PDT

FILE: The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday March 7, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

City council has approved an annual fee for ride-hail drivers who operate in Vancouver

City will also charge a pick-up and drop-off tax for rides within the downtown core between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

City staff recommended the licensing fee, in part, to ensure an even playing field between ride-hail, taxi drivers

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you plan on hitting Vancouver streets as a ride-hail driver later this year, it’s going to cost you.

Vancouver has become the first city in B.C. to usher in ride-hailing regulations, which include a $100 annual fee for drivers.

City staff recommended the licensing fee, in part, to ensure an even playing field between ride-hailing drivers and taxi drivers.

In addition to implementing the annual fee for drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft, city councillors on Wednesday night approved to drop the yearly licence fee for taxi drivers to $100, down from over $600.

The City of Vancouver is also going to be charging a pick-up tax as well as a drop-off tax of 30 cents each, for rides within the downtown core between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The idea is to help ease traffic and congestion on busy streets.

City councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung the only councillor to vote against the motion.

“I’m 100% supportive of #rideshare,” she said in a tweet, adding she also supports pick-up and drop-off “congestion fees.”

However, Kirby-Yung said she didn’t support Vancouver “going it alone” and “moving ahead with per vehicle fees” and a “taxi-like model,” noting the right way to do this would be to make these kinds of regulations an “inter-municipal effort.”

Staff have apparently met with various groups, including the Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, the Transportation Advisory Committee, as well as various interest groups to discuss their plans for ride-hailing.

Among the chief concerns flagged, staff say the advisory committees worry about the impacts to mobility and have proposed the city look at the options available to increase accessible vehicle supply — something ride-hailing companies cannot guarantee.

Interest groups have said ride-hailing could provide residents and visitors another travel option, economic viability for full- and part-time drivers.

Supporters of Uber and Lyft have spoken out about the city’s plan. Ian Tostenson with Rideshare Now — one of the groups listed in city staff’s report as a stakeholder they consulted — has said extra costs from taxes like the pick-up and drop-off fee could quickly add up for a driver, and make a hefty dent in customers’ pockets.

“What we feel they should do is just let ride-sharing be introduced and then work together with the ride-sharing companies and service providers to make those adjustments down the road,” Tostenson has said.

He’s added it doesn’t make sense to impose extra charges until there’s proof traffic is negatively impacted.

Lyft says the cost to be a ride-hailing driver in Vancouver could hold the businesses that want to operate back. The company estimates that if other cities also decide to charge a $100 fee per vehicle, the cost could end up being about $2,000.

The company adds the fee could limit the number of cars that operate.

City staff claim ride-hailing companies support a regional licensing approach, and that they have a general preference for the city’s Congestion and Curbside Management Permit plan as a “per-trip fee integrated into the company app.”

With files from Alison Bailey