Editor’s Note: A previous version of this 2018 story referred to GoKabu as an illegal ride-hailing app. Earlier this year, the B.C. government issued a notice saying drivers, not app companies, are operating illegally.
On Monday, as the provincial government discussed the future of ride-hailing in British Columbia, seven illegal ride-hailing services were already up and running around the province.
Five of them were operating in Richmond alone, according to the BC Taxi Association.
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Global News tried to catch a ride with one of those companies, with the help of former Global National Mandarin reporter Frank Qi.
But the driver refused to take the fare when he showed up.
GoKabu is one of a number of ride-hailing services operating across B.C., according to an October advisory from the Passenger Transportation Branch (PTB).
And that was the one that Global News tried on Monday. The app was just a touch away on a smartphone.
Global News tried to book a Mercedes SUV, but the driver wasn’t available. But someone driving a Nissan Rogue was.
The Rogue was supposed to arrive in six minutes. But then it had a flat tire, so a different ride would have to do.
An Audi A4 eventually arrived to pick up its fare.
But the driver wouldn’t take this one.
“The driver said the company running the app asked them not to take any Westerners, or, say, non-Chinese riders,” Qi explained.
The City of Richmond is aware that these services are operating in the Vancouver suburb.
City Spokesman Ted Townsend said the company would never receive a business licence.
“There’s no legal framework under which they would operate,” he said.
Operators each received fines of $1,150, but the services press on, treating the charges as the cost of doing business.
Don Guilbault of the BC Taxi Association said the illegal ride-hailers are making life difficult for taxi operators.
“We have families to feed,” he said Monday. “All we know is taxiing, our business has been killed.”
Guilbault said the PTB is making its “best effort” to ensure illegal operators are shut down, but added it’s “impossible to do.”
- Video report by Geoff Hastings