The mayor of Coquitlam says local governments throughout Metro Vancouver need to come together and establish a region-wide ridesharing licence for drivers.
The call comes after Lyft’s general manager for B.C. said Vancouver’s recent approval of its own business licence could set a dangerous precedent that may be adopted by other municipalities, potentially driving up costs and restricting access.
Speaking at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving event Friday, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said the region needs to sort out the rules around ridesharing so that it can be introduced as soon as possible.
“We need a whole range of options of safe rides home at 2 a.m. so that people won’t make the wrong decision,” he said.
“One of the things we need is a regional licensing system, so we don’t have 22 jurisdictions all doing something different.”
The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB)’s ridesharing rules include larger regional zones for ridesharing companies to operate in. The so-called Region One includes all of Metro Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Corridor and the Fraser Valley.
That would allow ridesharing vehicles to pick up a passenger in Vancouver and take them to Surrey, then take a passenger from Surrey to Richmond, and so on.
It’s also a big change from how taxis operate, which are only allowed to pick up passengers in the municipalities in which they’re licenced.
But Vancouver city council’s approval of both a $100-per-vehicle licensing fee and a 30-cent congestion fee puts the idea of Region One into question.
Lyft has said the idea of different municipal licences could prevent a Vancouver driver from picking up a passenger in Surrey or anywhere else.
The company is also considering bringing in geo-fencing that would all-out prevent ridesharing from operating in some corners of Metro Vancouver that prove too restrictive.
Stewart said he’s hopeful the TransLink Mayors’ Council, on which he sits, can work towards a regional licence in order to make ridesharing more accessible.
But some mayors and councillors have voiced their own concerns about introducing ridesharing to their cities.
At a meeting of the Metro Vancouver Council of Councils Saturday, board chair and Burnaby councillor Sav Dhaliwal said the issue of regional licensing isn’t within the board’s jurisdiction.
“Local governments themselves need to work with each other to come up with something,” he said.
Instead, Dhaliwal said the board is mainly concerned with how ridesharing could impact the region’s air quality and climate initiatives.
“We might have some issues with the number of vehicles that might be added with ride-hailing,” he said, citing the PTB’s decision to not put caps on ridesharing vehicles.
“We’ll be monitoring that very closely, because we have a responsibility to make sure the air quality isn’t affected negatively by those vehicles.”
Dhaliwal said the board is also working with TransLink to ensure transit ridership isn’t impacted once ridesharing is introduced.
But Stewart said ridesharing needs to be promoted as a viable option with an appropriate number of vehicles available, which the province has already threatened before municipalities began talking about licences.
The PTB is continuing to review Lyft’s application to operate in Metro Vancouver. Other major companies like Uber are also awaiting approval for licences, with the hope that ridesharing will be up and running in B.C. by Christmas.