B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says she won’t rule out putting a cap on the number of ridesharing cars that can operate in British Columbia. The province is giving additional power to the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) who will process all applications for ridesharing companies that want to operate in the province.
The province is now tracking taxi trips and will use the data to measure demand. It is based on that information that the province will determine whether ridesharing services are needed in certain areas.
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“The PTB is going to have data, it’s a data-driven, a demand-driven approach to this,” Trevena said. “We are making sure there are cars available when people need them. One thing we want to make sure there isn’t gridlock.”
New York City council voted in August in favour of capping the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles on city streets. The council voted to halt the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licences for 12 months while it studies the booming growth of businesses like Uber and Lyft.
But Lyft public policy director Tim Burr says ridesharing companies are not the main factor for increased congestion.
“We are ready to stand and work with the government, with our future regulators,” Burr said. “We are concerned about hearing caps brought up through this process. The true cause of congestion are folks driving alone.”
“For Lyft the time where we have the most cars on the road, is the time when people are not travelling to work, we are talking nights and weekends.”
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Caps can be hugely problematic to ridesharing companies. The company’s business model is based on allowing drivers to work on their own schedules and often work when the volume of consumers is higher. A cap system could be based on lower peak times, when many ridesharing drivers aren’t interested in being on the road.
Burr was part of a media event hosted by Ridesharing Now for BC. The advocacy group is disappointed that provincial legislation does not provide specific details about how companies will be approved and leaves open the idea of capping the number of ridesharing vehicles that can be on the road at any one time.
“It completely defeats the purpose of ridesharing, which is driven by the consumer that we need a ride now,” BC Restaurant and Food Services Association president Ian Tostenson said. How you put a restriction on that, we don’t understand how that works. We see this as an expansion of taxi in the province and not an introduction of ridesharing.”
Tostenson said the ability for the PTB to cap cars, set rates and restrict travel zones is problematic and prohibitive.
“We are bewildered,” he said. “We are a bit stunned. We thought yesterday was going to be about setting a date to have ridesharing operating in the province and we are still off in this exploratory, undefined mode.”
“Business doesn’t like that. Business likes certainty. We can see a timing that takes us to 2020.”