A couple of clicks and a car is on its way. That’s the promise made by Kater.
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, is open for business — months ahead of the official launch of ridesharing in B.C. later this fall.
Kater vehicles can only operate with licensed taxi drivers.
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The cars are new and branded with the Kater logo, and can only be ordered through the app — but people will still have to pay taxi rates.
Global News decided to test out the new app. Over the course of a Friday night Global News took three rides in Kater cars.
For all three trips, the cars were prompt, the drivers were knowledgeable, and the trip cost as advertised.
The company has struggled to attract drivers with Class 4 licences willing to driver Kater cars, offering up to $1,700 in bonuses to sign on with the service.
Drivers told Global News Kater is paying them a steady wage — $20 an hour with or without fares but it’s been a slow start. One driver told Global News of a day when he worked “six hours and only picked up one trip.”
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The cars are part of more than 100 taxi licences that were granted to Kater with the taxi industry sharing in the revenue.
As demand increases, Kater says more cars will be put on the road. For now, only people who are invited to use the app can order a Kater.
According to Ian Tostenson of Ride Sharing Now for BC, Uber and Lyft are supposed to be cheaper and more accessible options.
“Pricing is set on consumer demand and cars are set on consumer demand and that’s how the system can accommodate huge influxes of tourism, all those kinds of things,” he said.
Liberal MLA Jas Johal notes that Kater has “only about 120 to 130 vehicles, which are just re-wrapped taxis.”
He also notes that Kater drivers can only pick up passengers in the city of Vancouver.
“That doesn’t help anyone in Burnaby or Richmond or in Kamloops or Kelowna,” he said. “This is a Vancouver-centric service at this particular point.”