Surrey is finding itself in the middle of a debate over the future of both the taxi and ride-hailing industry in B.C.
The BC Liberals are calling on the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) to change the rules and allow for a single zone of operation for taxi across Metro Vancouver “to ensure a level playing field with ride-hailing services.”
“John Horgan and the NDP betrayed British Columbians by flip-flopping on their promise to create a level playing field for ride-hailing and have instead cooked up a convoluted framework that picks winners and losers in the marketplace to benefit their insider friends,” Liberal MLA Jas Johal said.
“Nobody is happy with this broken promise. Not taxi drivers, not ride-hailing services, and certainly not British Columbians. The traditional boundaries that define where taxis can and can’t operate are outdated and don’t represent our modern need for an integrated transportation network for a growing population.”
The BC Taxi Association, which represents some of the taxi companies in Surrey, is opposed to regional restrictions.
Currently, taxis in Metro Vancouver can only pick up in their own municipality. That means drivers are often picking up in Surrey, dropping off in Vancouver but legally not allowed to pick up another passenger in Vancouver.
Under the new rules rides-hailing companies, or TNCs as they are formally known, will be able to operate in large regional boundaries. For example the Lower Mainland, including Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Whistler and Squamish will all be in one boundary.
WATCH: NDP government unveils new ride-sharing rules (Aired: Aug. 19, 2019)
“To compete with the TNCs we must be able to use our resources to the max,” said BC Taxi Association President Mohan Kang.
“With the boundaries being there we are just using 50 per cent of our resources because there is deadheading going back. I believe in Metro Vancouver we need to have the same rules as the TNCs to pick up anywhere and drop off anywhere.”
The Vancouver Taxi Association is opposed to getting rid of the regional boundaries.
PTB chair Catharine Read said the board currently doesn’t have the data to change the rules for taxi companies and has heard frustration from taxi companies about making the change.
WATCH: B.C. taxi industry reacts angrily to new ride sharing regulations (Aired: Aug. 20,2019)
“They are not OK with it,” Read said. “Especially the taxi companies based out of Surrey and the suburbs of Metro Vancouver. They are not happy with it because they are restricted to their existing boundaries.”
Ride-hailing companies can begin applying to operate throughout the province in September.
Lyft has announced plans to operate in Metro Vancouver only. Uber has not made a final decision yet on whether it will operate in B.C. Kater has decided to operate in Metro Vancouver and smaller communities.
The changes have also brought out criticism from Surrey mayor Doug McCallum.
“These new regulations would allow ride-hailing companies the ability to pick up across boundaries, while the taxi industry must abide by limits. This would create an unlevel playing field,” McCallum said in a statement Tuesday.
“I am also not in favour of allowing unlimited fleet size for ride-hailing companies. This lack of regulation will negatively impact the environment and increase congestion. It will also negatively impact the existing taxi industry, who has loyally served Metro Vancouver’s residents for decades.”
The Passenger Transportation Board is keeping the door open to changing regional boundaries down the road. The province will be developing a ‘data warehouse’ and the information collected will be used to determine whether it makes sense to adjust boundaries.
“The Liberals have failed on this issue for seven years. They said our government would never bring ride-hailing to B.C., but in just 10 days ride-hailing companies will make applications to enter the market. The Liberals have also called for a complete de-regulation of the market including removing all safety regulations, which would increases risks to consumers and destroy the livelihoods of taxi drivers,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in a statement.
“Unlike the Liberals, we’ve taken a balanced approach to bring in ride-hailing alongside the taxi industry in a fair and responsible way. And we’re getting it done.”