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The wait is almost over…the ridesharing era in Metro Vancouver is almost upon us. On September 3rd, ride-hailing services were officially permitted to begin submitting applications to operate in B.C. Mega ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft, as well as, Uride and Alberta-based long haul service, InOrbis, were the first to publicly put their hat in the ring.
Needless to say, the embrace of ridesharing by the provincial government did not bode well for many of the Metro Vancouver cab companies.
On September 4th, the Vancouver Taxi Association (VTA)—comprised of Greater Vancouver cab companies like Yellow Cab, Black Top, Richmond Cabs and Bonny’s—filed a judicial review against the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB), an independent B.C. tribunal that’s in charge of making decisions on applications and authorizations related to passenger directed vehicles.
In the 21-page judicial review, the VTA asserts that the PTB has created unfair advantages for the ridesharing industry, thus giving them a better chance to succeed over established taxi companies. They note that various restrictions and regulations remain in place for taxi companies, but not for new ridesharing enterprises like Uber and Lyft.
Here are the main arguments and takeaways that we took from the review.
There will continue to be a limit on the number of taxi licenses that are granted for a particular geographic area, but there will be no limit to the number of ridesharing vehicles. The VTA asserts that this will cause financial losses and a destructive competition for the restricted taxicabs.
The latest PTB policy guidelines allows for ridesharing companies to operate within broader geographic zones. Individual taxi enterprises will remain restricted to running within municipalities—meanwhile there’ll be five large regional boundaries in B.C for ridesharing companies. Uber and Lyft plan on launching in Region1 of the Transportation Network service, which will encompass Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish, Lillooet and Whistler.
The VTA notes that ride-hailing companies generate their profits from the volume of trips carried out by drivers, thus having an “oversupply of passenger transportation vehicles doesn’t concern them.” Taxi license holders revenues are associated with the success of operation of particular taxicabs, while the VTA states that ridesharing companies aren’t “invested in the success of individual vehicles as stand-alone businesses.” Essentially, the VTA is arguing that Uber and Lyft business models are built to care more about overall company profits than providing drivers with a suitable living wage.
The VTA asserts that ride-hailing companies are enabled to undercut the required time and distance rates for taxis because they aren’t required to charge the same fees as taxis. (But it’s important to note that ridesharing companies won’t be able to offer coupon savings or charge below the taxi flag rate of $3.25 to $3.95.)
So, in summary, the taxi community isn’t very happy.
It will be interesting to see how the introduction of ridesharing to Metro Vancouver affects not only the taxi community, but also organizations like Evo and Car2Go. It’s tough to say how many people will ditch these services for ride-hailing alternatives, but what’s certain is that traffic and congestion is only going increase in heavily populated areas with the increased riding options and no caps on ridesharing vehicles. (Ridesharing companies are permitted to offer higher rates during peak times, so public transportation may still remain the most cost effective option after a Canucks game or music concert.)
That being said, your average Vancouverites may not care about whether there’s equality between the taxi and ridesharing communities—at the end of the day, people just want the best deal and greater accessibility to rides. But it’s hard not to see the unequal playing field being built between these two industries. In the review, the VTA isn’t arguing against the established regulations against taxicabs—they want ride-hauling companies to be required to comply by the same rules that their industry was built upon.