Metro Vancouver needs to look at region-wide ridesharing licence, mayor says

The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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.

Lyft boss talks about ridehailing challenges in B.C. and 2019 holiday operation
Lyft boss talks about ridehailing challenges in B.C. and 2019 holiday operation

“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.

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“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.

READ MORE: Lyft chief says B.C. ridesharing rules could drive up costs for riders, limit options

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.

New obstacle to ridesharing in Vancouver
New obstacle to ridesharing in Vancouver

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.

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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.

READ MORE: ‘Keep fighting’: Mayor Doug McCallum claims he’ll keep ride-hailing out of Surrey

A Delta city councillor recently took issue with the PTB’s ridesharing rules. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, meanwhile, has vowed his city won’t issue licences to any Lyft or Uber drivers.

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.

Metro Vancouver taxi drivers vow to fight ridesharing
Metro Vancouver taxi drivers vow to fight ridesharing

Instead, Dhaliwal said the board is mainly concerned with how ridesharing could impact the region’s air quality and climate initiatives.

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“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.

READ MORE: Delta council motion asks B.C. transportation board to scrap ridesharing rules

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.

“If the province continues to require [drivers to carry] a Class 4 licence,” Stewart said, “we won’t have the number of cars we need at 2 a.m. in order to prevent injuries and death from impaired driving.”
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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.