Ride-hailing companies will have to wait until December to find out if their applications are approved by B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board. The board has been accepting and reviewing applications since the beginning of September.
“The board continues to anticipate that the first decisions on ride-hailing applications will be issued sometime towards the end of 2019,” the Passenger Transportation Board said in a statement.
“We have no new information to share at this time.”
The province has promised to have ride-hailing available to British Columbians “before Christmas.”
But there is frustration growing among ride-hailing companies, which have concerns about how quickly municipal licences can be approved considering provincial licences are still being processed.
Lyft and Uber have also expressed concern over the number of available drivers. Both have called on the province to drop its requirement that drivers have a Class 4 licence to operate.
“Lyft is eager to begin operating in the Vancouver region and has applied for an operating licence from the Passenger Transportation Board,” Lyft wrote in a statement.
“We look forward to becoming a part of Metro Vancouver’s transportation network and helping residents get around the city in the near future.”
Kater, a B.C.-based company that has also applied for a licence to operate, is clearer on its timelines.
“Kater is preparing to launch its ride-hailing service once licensed by the PTB. Following the licence approval, Kater’s ride-hail rollout is expected to be within two weeks,” Kater CEO Scott Larson said.
“Initially operating in Vancouver, Kater will expand its services to include all of the Lower Mainland, Victoria and the Okanagan shortly thereafter.”
WATCH (aired September 24, 2019): Lyft to help prospective drivers get Class 4 licences
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena is confident the companies have enough time to get on the road even if applications don’t come for a few more weeks.
“I think ride-hail companies are very aware of the existence of business licences,” Trevena said.
“The PTB has got 21 applications and they are finalizing their applications and I am very confident they will be operating by Christmas.”
BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal says it’s “appalling” the PTB will not set a firm timetable for when applications will be either approved or rejected. He says the lack of information hurts businesses and consumers.
WATCH (aired September 4, 2019): Transportation Minister gives advice to independent board on ride-hailing
“The public should have an idea of when ride-hailing is going to be available. It’s appalling because business needs to know, these companies need to know, they should know by now,” he said.
“We don’t have an exact date or date of when it is coming.”
There could be additional hurdles for ride-hailing companies and the workforce.
Citing Lyft and Uber’s controversial labour practices, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak has asked B.C.’s Labour Relations Board to rule that ride-hailing drivers are employees protected by law.
Novak says the key issue is whether drivers are considered independent contractors or employees. Earlier this month, the state of New Jersey ordered Uber to pay $650 million in unemployment taxes because the government considers drivers to be employees. Uber responded by appealing the decision.
“We have reviewed the terms of Lyft and Uber’s agreements and in our assessment they are in violation of B.C. labour laws,” Novak said.
“Time and time again, across the globe, Lyft and Uber drivers have raised concerns that they are forced to work long hours and struggle to earn minimum wage. The contracts that Uber and Lyft are proposing in B.C. are virtually identical to the ones offered to drivers elsewhere. Many jurisdictions have scrambled to protect workers after the fact; we want to make sure that workers are protected before ride-hailing services launch this year.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan says he would like to see ride-hailing drivers in place first before speaking about the labour board. But he acknowledges the rollout of ride-hailing services has been bumpy.
“Obviously this took a lot longer than I had anticipated,” Horgan said.
“Had there been more work done in the previous five years that would have been possible. There was no insurance product available. No business put in place. There was no safety oversight for passengers. We started from scratch.”