Kater is set to become the first ridesharing company to operate in B.C.
But the company is still going to have to operate under the current rules.
The Surrey-based company has struck a deal with the Vancouver Taxi Association where cabs can be hailed by phone-based apps. The Minister of Transportation confirmed on Monday that the Vancouver Taxi Association informed the Passenger Transportation Branch that it has entered an agreement with Kater to use its app-based technology in the Lower Mainland.
“The ministry, through the Passenger Transportation Branch, is taking steps to ensure that all current provincial and licensing requirements are met including a regular, government-approved safety inspection of the vehicles, insurance that will cover the carrying of paying passengers and compliance with licence boundaries and other requirements until the fall of 2019 when new regulations will come into force that will allow ride-hailing companies to enter the market,” reads a statement from the ministry.
According to Kater’s website, the company charges a $3.20 base fare, with an additional $0.55 cost per minute and $1.84 cost per kilometre. Sources told Global News that the Kater service will be available in about 140 vehicles.
“Currently in beta testing, Kater is the made-in-B.C. ride-hailing solution that changes the way British Columbians commute. The Kater app connects users with safe, reliable rides on demand using their smartphones and is launching in Vancouver early 2019!” reads the Kater website.
“The Kater ride-hail app allows users to request a ride from their smartphone and be matched with a driver within five minutes. With our top priorities being safety and customer service, the Kater app was designed to create a superior user experience and improve transportation for British Columbians.”
There are concerns that Kater is getting an unfair advantage over other companies that are waiting to enter the B.C. market until the new rules change. New legislation passed last year details that companies like Uber and Lyft can start applying for new licences this fall.
In the meantime ICBC is creating an insurance package that can be used for these ride-hailing companies. The understanding is that Kater will operate solely as a technology company and that taxi companies will use the existing insurance model as it would for any Vancouver taxi.
B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal says the public wants true ridesharing without some companies getting a head start.
WATCH (aired on Dec.31, 2018): Another New Year’s Eve with no ridesharing in B.C.
“They don’t want this imposed on them by the NDP government. They want a level playing field so that all entrants can get into the market fairly. If British Columbians are told ridesharing is coming. They want local companies. They want international companies,” Johal said.
“It is up to the consumer to decide. At the end of the day this does not pass the smell test when it comes to open government.”
The Vancouver Taxi Association was unavailable for comment.