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B.C. will still see Uber and Lyft hit the roads by Christmas, premier vows

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

B.C. Premier John Horgan doesn’t see anything standing in the way of ridesharing hitting the roads by Christmas as originally promised, despite suggestions of additional delays to come.

“I’ve made it abundantly clear to anyone who will listen that I believe we need to have ride-hailing here — fair ride-hailing here — by Christmas, and that’s my commitment,” Horgan said Thursday.

“We’re going at the speed we believe is appropriate for public safety and appropriate for fairness to the existing sector.”

Ridesharing could be further delayed in B.C.
Ridesharing could be further delayed in B.C.

In a letter obtained by Global News Wednesday, the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) warned ridesharing applicants like Uber and Lyft to expect delays in their application being processed by up to 21 days.

The board blames the delays on a judicial review launched by the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Taxi Association. The PTB has also modified the application process to give further disclosure to applicants in order to provide transparency.

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READ MORE: Ridesharing could be further delayed in B.C., Passenger Transportation Board letter suggests

“I think ride-hailing is going to be here as quickly as we can get it here, but we want to make sure this is a transparent process,” Horgan said in defending the independent PTB’s decision.

On Thursday, Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena echoed Horgan’s commitment to the original timeline, saying she doesn’t foresee any extensive delays due to the PTB.

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

“I’m confident we’re going to have ride-hailing in British Columbia this year,” she said.

“The PTB is working through its processes. What I’m concerned about is that we have a lot of people who want to see ride-hail in B.C., we have 19 companies all ready to go to provide ride-hailing in B.C., and we want to see ride-hail in B.C.”

The PTB 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.

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

The board had received requests to have oral hearings, which have been denied.

Ian Tostenson with Ridesharing Now for BC says the additional delays could impact people’s holiday plans, which have been set up with ridesharing in mind.

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“So many people have made their plans around this,” he said. “We have Christmas parties that have been booked around that, because I publicly said that we’ll have ridesharing by Nov. 30. Now it looks like the bureaucracy, because of the taxi lobby, is shutting that down.

“If I was in the public right now, I wouldn’t be very happy about this, because 80 per cent of the people in British Columbia want ridesharing.”

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

Restaurant workers would also be impacted if ridesharing continues to be delayed, he added.

Tostenson makes clear he blames the PTB for the potential delay, not the government — but he says the legislature will still be held to account if Christmas passes without ridesharing.

“Nothing surprises me on this file,” he said. “It’s been a series of disappointments the whole way.

“I know the premier wants to get this done … and I think we need to hold the premier to that task.”

—With files from Richard Zussman