As Vancouver city council weighs the 2024 budget, the city is facing pushback against proposed new fees for ride-hailing companies to operate in the downtown core.
Vancouver already charges ride-hailing drivers a $0.30 “congestion” fee to pick up or drop off passengers in the metro core between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
City staff have recommended increasing that fee to $0.45 in 2024 and $0.60 in 2025, and increasing the time period it covers to 10 p.m.
“Vancouver residents and visitors already pay the highest ride-share city fees in Canada. Four times higher than any other city in Canada,” Uber spokesperson Keerthana Rang said of the proposal.
“People are going to choose to stay home or, worse, take their own vehicle. This is going to hurt local restaurants and bars, and increase the chance of impaired driving.”
Uber isn’t the only one pushing back on the proposed fee hike.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is also raising concerns the higher fees could dissuade people from using ride-hailing.
“Any time we talk about increasing fees or making it more difficult for people to access those services, we run the risk of unintentionally raising the chances of people using their own cars, making the wrong choices, which I think is a bad result for all of us,” MADD Canada CEO Steve Sullivan said.
Sullivan said the fee hikes are small enough they probably wouldn’t have a big effect on infrequent ride-hail users.
“But if you are someone who goes out regularly, has a very active social life, who is using it for work … I just think any kind of increase you impose on people who use the service regularly will add up.”
Some in Vancouver’s hospitality sector also worry about unintended consequences.
Alannah Taylor, bar manager at Yaletown’s Capo and the Spritz, said businesses are already grappling with fewer customers amid the surging cost of living.
“Inflation is at an all-time high right now, so I feel like people are making more and more excuses not to come out, so that would be my number one concern, that they’re not going to make it here because of the rising cost,” she said.
Taylor noted the Skytrain does not run late at night, and pointed to spotty late-night bus service as compounding the issue.
“Ride-hailing is kind of the safe ride home at night when those options aren’t running,” she said.
At council Tuesday, City of Vancouver general manager of engineering services Lon LaClaire said the fee was originally implemented to help prevent congestion downtown from an influx of rideshare vehicles, but felt it needed to be adjusted.
“The increase really is that we see, relative to other jurisdictions across North America, we’re on the low side, and we kind of feel its a good management move,” he told counci.
He said other cities like Portland, which has a $0.50 cent fee, also apply the measure to the entire city and 24 hours a day.
Uber, however, argued Vancouverites are currently paying the highest ride-share city fees in the country by a factor of four.
The idea of raising ride-hailing fees was included among a suite of proposals unveiled earlier this fall, aimed at keeping Vancouver’s property tax increases down.
City staff estimated the new fees could raise $2.9 million in 2024 and $3 million the following year.