The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) has sent a letter to ridesharing applicants warning them to expect delays in their application being processed, raising new questions about when the industry will hit B.C. roads.
In the letter obtained by Global News, the board says the delays are happening because of a judicial review launched by the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Taxi Association. The board has also modified the application process to give further disclosure to applicants in order to provide transparency.
The letter says applicants have seven additional days to respond to the board with comments and 14 days to provide any final submission to applications already sent in. The vetting of companies will only take place once the applications have been looked through, it says.
The board had received requests to have oral hearings, which have been denied.
Part of the process will now include applicants receiving redacted versions of all the application packages minus sensitive, competitive information.
The provincial government has promised to have ridesharing services operational in British Columbia before Christmas.
BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal says these additional steps will make it impossible for the government to fulfill that promise.
“I think what this means is the British Columbia public should now expect ridehailing to come in late December and maybe the new year. They have changed the rules in the middle of the game,” Johal said.
“This unnecessary barrier is going to make things difficult.”
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says the province still expects people to be using app-based ridesharing by the end of the year, and is taking steps to ensure the process is fair and transparent after years of delay by the previous government.
“There are now 20 ride-hailing companies who have applied to start operating this year — clearly this is unprecedented in our province and there is no shortage of interest,” Trevena wrote in a statement responding to Global News’ request.
“The independent Passenger Transportation Board is working through its decision-making process by ensuring everyone has the opportunity to weigh in and respond. From what I understand, this will not add an extensive delay to the Board’s process.”
In September, the Vancouver Taxi Association filed a judicial review against the PTB’s decision to have no caps for ridesharing vehicles allowed on B.C. roads.
In the court filing, the association argues the PTB has provided an unfair advantage for the new ridesharing industry. Vancouver Taxi Association head Carolyn Bauer says taxi companies have been required by the board to operate with limited vehicles in a heavily regulated environment.
The province has also expressed concerns about the vehicle caps.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena sent a letter to the independent PTB in September about “widespread concerns related to the introduction of ride-hailing services.”
Trevena wrote she is concerned about no limits on ridesharing fleet sizes and the potential impact on Metro Vancouver traffic.
She later clarified she was not providing direction to the independent board, saying the letter’s purpose was simply “the conveying of information.”