Two mega-ridesharing companies have been approved to operate on Lower Mainland roadways.
Both Uber and Lyft have been given the green light to operate in Zone 1, which covers the Lower Mainland and Whistler region, the Passenger Transportation Board announced Thursday.
The board rejected applications made by two smaller companies: Kater Technologies, which intended to operate across the province, and ReRyde Technologies which sought to offer rides across the Vancouver Island and B.C.’s central interior.
”The decisions were made after a careful review of the extensive materials received during the application process which included supporting information provided by the applicants and submissions from interested members of the public and stakeholders,” the board said in a news release.
Since September the board has been reviewing 29 ride-hailing company applications. The only other company to be approved is Green Coast Ventures, which has plans to operate in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Vancouver Island.
In order to get vehicles on the streets, companies will need to obtain a local business licenses. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. confirmed Thursday afternoon that both companies have already been issued proper insurance.
Metro Vancouver mayors voted in December to fast-track a regional business licence, with an initial deadline of end of January.
New Westminster Mayor and council chair Jonathan Cote said staff from the region’s cities have been working on creating the licence’s framework.
“What I have heard about the work happening from all the municipalities is that the work is on the track,” he told Black Press Media.
Once the licence is approved by the council, each city included will have to vote on if it will take part.
In the meantime, ride-hailing services could launch in cities that have adopted patchwork policies, Cote said.
Class 4 licence requirement could cause delays to on-boarding drivers, warns Uber
Prospective drivers will each have to also obtain a Class 4 licence – a contentious requirement set out by the B.C. government.
Uber spokesperson Michael van Hemmen said in an emailed statement that the company will be starting up its operations “very soon,” but warned that riders may experience longer than usual wait times as drivers on-board and that service may not be available in all Metro Vancouver communities at initial launch.
Lyft’s general manager, Pete Lukomskyj, said in a news release that the company is working closely to gain the proper business licensing to begin operating.
“Once those are approved, we plan to announce our initial operating area, give our inaugural ride, and launch our service,” he said. “We can’t wait to see the new ways in which Vancouverites explore their city once they have a Lyft ride at their fingertips.”
Twenty-one municipalities across the Lower Mainland and on the Sunshine Coast make up Zone 1.
Province to work with taxi companies in coming months
More than a dozen taxi companies made submissions in response to the initial ridesharing applications asking the committee to place caps on fleet sizes and ban “predatory pricing.”
But in its decisions, the transportation board said these aspects of ride-hailing are all par for the course.
“We live in a market economy and competition is the norm in marketplaces,” the decisions read, adding that while the board “is sympathetic to the prospect that taxi licence holders may experience a drop in their licence-share value, it has never sanctioned the market for such shares, nor does it have the authority to do so.”
Similar to taxis, the board decided that Lyft and Uber will have to start fares at a set minimum charge of $3.35 per ride but will be allowed to use “dynamic pricing,” which is when rates increase or decrease based on peak travel times or slow periods in order to incentivize ridership.
The mega-ridesharing companies won’t be allowed to use coupons or discounts that lower the total fare to below the minimum charge.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said during a news conference in Victoria that she plans to work with the taxi sector to address concerns in coming months. She also defended the delay for ride-hailing to become a reality in the province.
“I know people are frustrated. I know people want to get it immediately. I was as frustrated as everyone with the time it seemed to be taking,” she said. “But I think in the end, people in B.C. can feel very comfortable in the service that we’re getting.”
As for the other 26 applications, the transportation board said it is working towards issuing further decisions as expeditiously as possible but that the review process is taking time due to the large quantity of applications and the number of submissions.