WATCH: The City of Vancouver is embroiled in yet another controversy over its refusal to allow more suburban taxis into the city. Jill Bennett reports.
Five months ago, Vancouver city council passed a motion putting a six-month moratorium on granting any new taxi licenses.
It was intended to give the city time to sort out the issues arising from ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft trying to gain access to the Vancouver market, along with increased demands by suburban cab companies.
Now, it seems the city needs another six months.
“Changes underway in the taxi industry require the City to evaluate and respond quickly, while also safeguarding the highest possible performance standards,” reads an administrative report that will be given to city council next week.
“In order to allow the…process sufficient time to continue and hopefully succeed, staff recommends that the moratorium on taxi licences be extended to October 31, 2015.”
It’s a resolution – or lack thereof – people in Metro Vancouver are all too familiar with. In 2012, the Passenger Transportation Board approved temporary permits for 38 suburban cabs to operate in Vancouver on weekends. But legal challenges soon followed and last week the B.C. Supreme Court ruled Vancouver doesn’t have to approve any pending applications while their moratorium is in place.
“The idea was really to put pressure on everybody to come up with a solution, not leave it up to the courts and the city to try and play ping pong with various applications,” argues Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs.
“The 38 licenses in my view may be part of a final resolution, but they’re not going to make much of a difference on weekends.”
While Vancouver figures out what to do in its jurisdictions, Burnaby also faces the same dilemma. Thursday they invited Uber to make a presentation to their council.
“Uber represents a disruptive technology and that often upsets incumbent interests that have been operating in a city or jurisdiction for decades, and haven’t innovated and feel threatened,” said Chris Schafer, Uber’s Public Policy Manager.
“They use the resources at their disposal to keep things the same.”
However, Uber was sharply criticized at the meeting by Burnaby councillor Sav Dhaliwal, who criticized Schafer for not knowing how many jurisdictions the company was banned in, and not indicating whether the company would apply for Passenger Transportation Board licenses if they were to expand to British Columbia.
“In order to be a law abiding people, we expect them to apply for the PTB license,” said Dhaliwal.
“I’m not one to tell anyone to do their job, but I don’t believe politicians should encourage an archaic set of regulations that are designed to restrict entry, keep fares high, and prevent regional trade for citizens,” countered Schafer.
The city hasn’t laid out a timeline to respond to Uber’s presentation by Uber. But if recent history in the Vancouver transportation industry is any indication, a decision isn’t imminent.