SURREY (NEWS 1130) – There are calls for the province to remove what are being called “archaic rules” that govern the taxi industry in B.C.
The Surrey Board of Trade (SBoT) has formed a petition asking for taxi boundaries to be removed in the Lower Mainland region.
“Allowing the 2,500 taxis in Metro to pick up and drop off anywhere in the Lower Mainland,” SBoT CEO Anita Huberman said. “We’re in a transit and transportation crisis, especially in Surrey, and we absolutely need different options to get around.”
This comes after a rocky start to ride-hailing in the city, which saw bylaw officers issue tickets to drivers for operating without a licence, despite there not being one for them to apply for.
Huberman said while the board supports ride-hailing in Surrey, it’s also behind the taxi industry.
“We’re proponents of ride-sharing, but we’ve always said that the taxi industry, also, must engage and compete on a level playing field without any boundaries,” she explained. “That is true economic action that we’re asking for today in the form of releasing this petition.”
Some of the consequences of the status quo, Huberman added, include impacting consumer choice. She believes it’s up to the SBoT to “advocate for good transportation, and to support our industries.”
“And the taxi industry is part of our economy,” she said. “These are good quality jobs, and they also have a chance to innovate their industry as well in the face of ride-sharing in our market, and many of them want to do that.”
People wanting to sign the petition have until mid-March to do so.
Huberman said as the rules stand, red tape forces cab drivers to drive back without passengers after dropping someone off in a neighbouring municipality — something called deadheading — something she sees as a waste of resources.
It also adds to congestion, longer wait times, greenhouse gas emissions, and lower income for drivers, she said.
“Let’s remove the politics out of it all and let’s do what is right for this industry, for this economy, that are also members of the Surrey Board of Trade,” Huberman said.
The SBoT is expected to meet with the minister of transportation in the coming weeks. At that meeting, Huberman said she will stress the importance of levelling the playing field.
Council amends bylaws to support taxis, ride-hailing
As news of the petition came, Surrey council announced on Tuesday it has approved several amendments to “modernize the city’s Vehicle for Hire and Business Licence Bylaws.”
The goal, council said, was to “establish fair competition” between ride-hailing operators and taxi companies in the city.
Councillors have also approved the Inter-Municipal Business Licence, which will allow companies like Uber and Lyft to operate there.
Mayor Doug McCallum has been a vocal opponent of services like Uber and Lyft, but said Tuesday he was pleased council approved the changes “to support a level playing field between taxis and ride-hailing vehicles.”
“We are doing what we can within the city’s jurisdiction to create equitable competition between taxis and ride-hailing companies,” McCallum said in a release. “I will continue to advocate that the Province and the Passenger Transportation Board do their part in supporting a fair competitive market for those employed in these industries.”
Changes to bylaws will see fees for taxis in Surrey reduced to “match the licencing fee structure” of the Inter-Municipal Business Licence, as well as allowing approved cabs to drive in marked bus lanes.
As part of the amendments, wheelchair accessible cabs will also be allowed to park in accessible parking spots while loading or unloading passengers, and the maximum age of taxis has been increased from seven years to 10.
The amendments bring mostly bring these regulations in line with what’s been outlined in the Inter-Municipal Business Licence.
You can find all the amendments here:Taxi bylaw amendments Surrey
-With files from Martin MacMahon