Vancouver city council has approved new measures to manage ridesharing in the city, including some controversial fees that advocates say will be prohibitive.
Council voted to approve recommendations in a staff report Wednesday to adopt a 30-cent pick-up and drop-off fee to manage congestion in the city’s core, as well as a $100 annual licensing fee for ridesharing drivers.
Staff said Vancouver only has the power to regulate street use management and licensing for vehicles and businesses. All other ridesharing regulations — including fleet size and boundaries — are under provincial jurisdiction.
But given the province’s plans to have ridesharing running by this Christmas, the city’s transportation director, Lon LeClaire, said council had limited time to get municipal regulations in place.
“Just given the time available between understand the legislation and the services being implemented, we had to act quickly to get something in place to maximize the chances of a successful launch,” LeClaire said.
City manager Sadhu Johnston repeatedly cautioned councillors against deferring the vote or referring the report back to staff, saying any delays could allow the ridesharing industry to begin operating in an unregulated environment.
The 30-cent congestion and curbside management fee will be applied to all pick-ups and drop-offs within the Vancouver core from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Zero-emission and accessible vehicles will get a 50 per cent and 100 per cent discount, respectively, on the fee.
The city says the $100 licensing fee will stay consistent for all ridesharing vehicles, along with taxis and limousines, creating a level playing field.
But Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung — the only city councillor who voted against the plan — said the fees could end up hurting the ridesharing industry regionally.
“What I did not support is a Vancouver-only model that moves ahead without looking at an inter-municipal approach,” she said.
“What that smacks of to me is the taxi approach, where we are creating false challenges to having vehicles go across municipal boundaries.”
Staff said they will revisit the $100 fee in six months, and that other regulations could be changed after their effects can be seen on the industry.
Representatives for Uber and Lyft told council they don’t support the $100 licensing fee, saying it could end up being prohibitive for drivers.
A statement from Lyft voiced support for congestion pricing, but warned it should be applied to all vehicles in order to be successful.
“When looking to implement congestion pricing, it’s critical that all vehicles are accounted for, including commercial and personal vehicles and continuing to incentivize the use of shared rides,” a spokesperson said.
The company also said congestion pricing should incentivize high-occupancy trips and promote clean transportation.
Lyft and Uber have both applied to operate within the Metro Vancouver region, along with more than half a dozen other companies.
The provincial Passenger Transportation Board has recommended no cap on ridesharing fleet sizes and that Metro Vancouver operate as a single regional boundary.
The recommendations have prompted a legal challenge from the Vancouver Taxi Association, who argue the rules would create an unfair advantage for the ridesharing industry.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena raised those concerns with the board in a letter last month.
The province is also requiring ridesharing drivers to carry a Class 4 licence, which ridesharing companies and advocates say will lead to fewer drivers on B.C.’s roads.
The rule was cited as a reason why Uber and Lyft have not applied to operate elsewhere in B.C.
— With files from Nadia Stewart