More than 30 taxi operators and representatives from across the Okanagan gathered in Kelowna Tuesday morning as they begin a process to form a local taxi association.
“This is kind of in its infancy stages,” said Roy Paulson, who does media relations for Kelowna Cabs. “What this meeting was all about was uniting as the different taxi companies in the Okanagan, to get together and have some things that we can approach the government on.”
The meeting comes less than a month before ridesharing companies like Uber will be able to apply for a licence to operate in B.C.
“They are all over the planet, they are not going away,” said Ted Wiltshire, president for Checkmate Cabs in Kelowna. “People want it, they want more choice. We’re OK with that, but make it a level playing field for us.”
The industry is pleased that the government has already decided ridesharing drivers will require a commercial class 4 licence to operate here in B.C., unlike other provinces where only a regular class 5 licence is required.
But taxi operators are adamant that all of the regulations need to be the same for both industries.
“We only think it’s fair that the regulations are the same for the ridesharing,” Paulson said.
He added if the regulations aren’t the same, it will potentially destroy the local taxi industry.
“In some cities, it has,” said Paulson. “There’s only so many people in the city that will call a taxi, but if there are so many taxis or ridesharing available, everything is going to make everybody make less money.”
The taxi operators are especially worried about some of the unknowns, things like how much ridesharing companies will be charging, the boundaries where they’ll be able to pick up and drop off passengers and how many licences will be issued.
“We understand that there could be so many thousands for the province just to roll this program out,” Wiltshire said. “But we need to know how many will be in Kelowna; that’s what concerns us the most.”
The passenger transportation board is expected to provide a framework with the regulations later in the month.
Once it does, the newly formed taxi association wants to be ready to respond.