The only thing resembling ridesharing in B.C. currently comes from a company called Kater — but so far it’s failed to launch.
The Surrey-based company, which struck a deal earlier this year with the Vancouver Taxi Association allowing cabs to be hailed by a phone-based app, was supposed to roll out sometime early in 2019 — months ahead of the official launch of ridesharing in B.C. later this fall.
In a statement, the company couldn’t give a firm date on when the public would see its vehicles on the road, and said it’s continuing to develop the technology behind the app. Its website also doesn’t offer any specific details.
However, looking at advertising from the company, it appears it’s short on drivers.
Now, Kater is offering potential drivers up to $1,700 dollars in bonuses if they sign on with the service.
Critics say the incentive is part of the company’s way of dealing with a shortage of Class 4 licence holders, which is required to operate a taxi in B.C.
Thanks to the province’s ridesharing legislation, that requirement will also be in place for Uber and Lyft drivers.
WATCH: Coverage of Kater and ridesharing in B.C. on Globalnews.ca
“The government is trying to pull a fast one on the public,” Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.
Johal sits on the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations, which is looking at how best to roll out ridesharing in B.C. The committee is focusing its attention on license requirements for potential drivers and the geographic boundaries that currently limit where taxi companies can operate.
Johal believes if the government carries through with its commitment making all drivers hold a Class 4 licence, it will kill all competition for Kater.
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman agrees, calling Kater a Band-Aid solution to ridesharing in B.C.
“We need to allow companies like Uber and Lyft into the market to ensure that we have transportation choices not only with Metro Vancouver but in all of B.C.,” she said.
In a statement to Global News, the province said they’re still committed to introducing ridesharing in the fall, and defended the Class 4 licence requirement.
“When people use taxis or ridehailing services they need to know the driver has a clean record and their ride is safe,” a spokesperson with the Ministry of Transportation said.
But there are still no final regulations in place and no insurance product from ICBC that would apply to the pool of drivers expected to turn to ridesharing driving.
With more negotiations expected on the legislation, it could be months before the ridesharing landscape in BC becomes clear.