Uber says it's a marketplace matching independent drivers with passengers through its smartphone app

Uber says it's a marketplace matching independent drivers with passengers through its smartphone app

Taxi ‘turmoil’ ahead as Uber eyes Vancouver market

Service standards a concern if ride-sharing tech giant arrives in B.C.

A renewed drive by U.S.-based ride-sharing service Uber to enter the B.C. market is fanning fears that the tech firm may disrupt the taxi industry and leave spotty service in its wake.

Uber is advertising for drivers in the Vancouver area and its arrival would crack open a highly regulated cab industry, potentially bringing lower prices and more taxi availability for passengers.

Instead of flagging Uber cars down, users connect with drivers of private cars through the company’s smartphone app. The firm also uses methods like variable pricing – fares can double or triple in rainy weather or at peak times to attract enough drivers to match demand.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs expects a period of “real turmoil” ahead for taxi operators – San Francisco cabbies saw their revenues plunge 40 per cent after Uber launched.

“That’s devastating and it makes it very, very difficult for the existing industry to survive, never mind support specialized services like accessible taxis,” Meggs said.

Most Metro Vancouver cab firms have invested heavily to convert to electric hybrids and Meggs said it’s unclear whether Uber’s arrival would mean backsliding on emissions.

He met Uber reps earlier in September – they are to address Vancouver council Wednesday – and Meggs believes they will operate not just in Vancouver but in other Lower Mainland suburbs, with or without regulatory approval.

“I don’t have any sense they’re going to restrict their operations to the City of Vancouver,” Meggs said, adding taxi firms in other communities may be even more vulnerable to Uber because their markets are smaller.

Uber tried in 2012 to enter Vancouver but backed out after B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board said it could operate only as a limousine service charging a minimum $75 a ride.

The company has argued elsewhere it’s a technology firm not a taxi company and therefore need not have vehicles or drivers licensed as taxis.

Vancouver council is expected to freeze the issuance of any new taxi licences for the next six months while it studies evolving issues in the taxi industry, including demand for new ride-sharing technologies.

At least one taxi firm has already warned its drivers they’ll be fired if they sign up with Uber.

But B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang downplays the chances Uber will actually get rolling here.

“The government is not going to allow illegal operations,” he predicted.

Kang said it’s unclear whether Uber drivers would be adequately insured and subject to various regulations that apply to taxi drivers, including criminal record checks.

Jane Dyson, executive director of Disability Alliance BC (formerly the B.C. Coalition for People with Disabilities) said she’s concerned Uber drivers won’t have training to work with people with disabilities as is required of Metro taxi drivers.

She said Uber drivers also would not accept TransLink TaxiSaver coupons, which offer elderly or disabled HandyDart clients half-price taxi subsidies.

Kang said Metro Vancouver taxi firms are meanwhile preparing to launch their own booking app.

Uber calls the taxi industries of most cities “stagnant” and in need of an injection of innovation and diversity.

The $18-billion company has grown rapidly since launching in San Francisco and now operates in more than 200 cities worldwide, including Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.

Just Posted

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read