Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft should not be limited by geographic boundaries or caps on fleet sizes, and drivers should be allowed to work with Class-5 licences, according to a provincial legislative committee.
In November, the provincial government introduced legislation that will allow ride-hailing companies to operate in B.C., likely by late this year.
The nine-member, all-party select standing committee on Crown corporations was asked to look at four specific areas of regulation: boundaries, vehicle supply, fare and price regimes, and driver’s licence requirements.
On Tuesday, it released 11 recommendations after hearing from 15 witnesses and receiving 47 written submissions from municipalities, regional districts, First Nations, taxi associations, disability advocacy organizations and ride-hailing companies.
“I do hope that now government will see fit to keep the recommendations and get real ride-hailing in place and on the road in British Columbia,” said Surrey South Liberal MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who was the committee’s deputy chair.
Currently, taxi companies are limited by operating boundaries, which are set when a taxi licence is granted. They dictate where a taxi can pick up passengers, which can lead to deadheading — return trips without passengers — and ride refusals.
The committee said boundaries should not be imposed for ride-hailing companies. Instead, they considered other options to manage the distribution of vehicles, such as geofencing to redistribute supply and per-trip or per-kilometre fees to deal with congestion, if necessary.
Fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies should not be capped, the committee said, however it did not agree on other mechanisms to deal with supply and demand.
In the interest of safety and reducing emissions, the committee recommended that vehicles used for ride-hailing be no more than 10 years old.
On pricing, the committee said there should be a minimum per-trip price that is not less than the cost of public transit. A regular adult fare for someone who does not have a Compass card is $2.95 for one zone, and $5.70 for three zones.
They also agreed that the cost of a trip should be the same for an handicap-accessible vehicle and non-accessible vehicle.
Companies should be required to disclose the price for a trip on their apps before the customer orders a ride, and data should be monitored to see if a base rate or cap on surge pricing should be implemented. These recommendations were in a 2018 committee report.
The committee was not unanimous in its views on driver licensing, but a majority of members voted for a Class-5 licence requirement, rather than a Class-4. A Class-5 licence is what most drivers in B.C. hold.
“Members expressed uncertainty over whether the Class-4 licensing process actually produces safer drivers,” the report states.
They emphasized that driver rating systems could help identify safe drivers, and said driving record checks and medical exams could be required.
The committee also recommended that ride-hailing companies be required to provide data to the province for monitoring purposes, and that the province make that information available “to the broadest extent possible while maintaining privacy.”
It was recommended that the province review the regulations in 2023.
Committee member and B.C. Green spokesperson for transportation, MLA Adam Olsen, said the government now has the tools to make ride-hailing a reality.
“Ride-hailing will make transportation services more accessible for British Columbians, and the recommendations brought forward by our committee ensure that there would be a regulatory environment that promotes overall safety and a fair playing field,” said Olsen. “I hope government will implement these recommendations, which are informed by other jurisdictions.”
Ridesharing Now for B.C., a coalition advocating in favour of ride-hailing, urged the province to adopt the recommendations and move forward.
“Today’s report marks a major milestone in bringing ride-sharing to the province by the fall of 2019, as promised by the government,” said spokesperson Ian Tostenson. “It is time to get ride-sharing on the road by implementing the key recommendations and finalizing ride-sharing auto-insurance.”
To bridge the gap until ride-hailing is allowed in the province, a local company has started Kater, a ride-hailing app that will begin beta testing on Saturday.
People who have registered on the company’s website and been chosen to take part in the trial will be able to download the company’s app and order rides from Vancouver to anywhere in B.C. Kater will begin with a small number of vehicles and scale up to 140 within a few weeks.
The company will use Vancouver Taxi Association licences to operate and will be expected to abide by the existing rules — which include requiring a Class-4 licence, TaxiHost Pro certificate, and chauffeur-for-hire permit, and charging taxi rates — but use a typical ride-hailing app that takes payment and allows users to track their rides and rate drivers.