Uber, Lyft given green light to operate in B.C.’s Lower Mainland

Click to play video: 'B.C. transportation minister makes ridesharing announcement' B.C. transportation minister makes ridesharing announcement
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena announces at a press conference Thursday the approval of some ridesharing licences, like Uber and Lyft, in the province – Jan 23, 2020

The world’s two largest ride-hailing companies are coming to the Lower Mainland.

B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) has granted licences to Uber and Lyft to operate in the Lower Mainland and Whistler, the area known as “Region 1” under the province’s regulations.

READ MORE: First rideshare company approved to operate in B.C., Lyft and Uber still waiting for decision

But the PTB refused to grant a permit in any part of the province for Kater Technologies, the taxi industry-backed ride-hailing company that operated in B.C. from spring to December of last year.

In its decision, the PTB found Kater’s “ambitious” business plan and revenue projections “incongruous and unrealistic,” and said the company did not properly account for competition.

Click to play video: 'Why Kater was denied a ridesharing permit by PTB' Why Kater was denied a ridesharing permit by PTB
Why Kater was denied a ridesharing permit by PTB – Jan 23, 2020

It also rejected an application from ReRyde Technologies, which had sought to operate in the Victoria area, Vancouver Island and B.C.’s central interior.

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“The decisions were made after a careful review of the extensive materials received during the application process which included supporting information provided by the applicants and submissions from interested members of the public and stakeholders,” the PTB said in a media release.

READ MORE: B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board to issue rideshare licences in ‘late’ 2019

Uber spokesperson Michael van Hemmen lauded the decision, and said he expected vehicles to be on the road “in the next few days.”

“We hope to launch very soon, once we have obtained a business licence from the City of Vancouver and purchased insurance from ICBC,” van Hemmen said.

“In the meantime, we encourage all qualified drivers with a Class 4 licence to sign up on the Uber app at so they can start earning money as soon as operations begin.”

Emails were quickly sent out to members of Uber’s mailing list urging drivers to download the app and sign up.

Click to play video: 'New obstacle to ridesharing in Vancouver' New obstacle to ridesharing in Vancouver
New obstacle to ridesharing in Vancouver – Oct 2, 2019

In its own statement, Lyft said it was also working to secure the necessary municipal licences to launch.

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“We are thrilled to have received approval from the Passenger Transportation Board and are excited to bring Lyft’s ride-hailing service to the region,” said Peter Lukomskyj, general manager of B.C., Lyft.

“We’re working closely with municipalities to ensure we have our business licences in place to begin operating. Once those are approved, we plan to announce our initial operating area.”

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart took to Twitter following the announcement to say the city was ready to turn licence applications around in three days or less.

However, he later said staff would be ready to issue licences Thursday.

The city said it was able to issue business licences to both companies Thursday, after staff ensured the licences were ready for approval ahead of the PTB’s announcement.

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Lyft has advised the city the company has 388 standard vehicles and 23 electric vehicles ready to operate in Vancouver as of Thursday. Uber has not yet shared with the city how many vehicles it has ready to go.

ICBC said it had issued insurance to Uber and Lyft Thursday, and that once the companies provided their PTB authorization they would be able to purchase it.

The Lower Mainland is also still grappling with a fragmented system of municipal licences. In December, Metro Vancouver voted to move forward with a unified business licence for the region.

READ MORE: Rules for B.C. ride-sharing industry released: No restrictions on fleet sizes or surge pricingMinister of Transportation Claire Trevena said the NDP government had done the “hard work and delivered” on ride-hailing, and had developed a system with the “highest safety standards in North America.”“I know people are frustrated, I know people wanted it immediately,” said Trevena.“I was as frustrated as everyone in the time it seemed to be taking, but I think in the end people in B.C. can feel very comfortable in the service they’ll be getting.”
Click to play video: 'B.C. transportation minister ‘frustrated’ by ridesharing delay in B.C.' B.C. transportation minister ‘frustrated’ by ridesharing delay in B.C.
B.C. transportation minister ‘frustrated’ by ridesharing delay in B.C – Jan 23, 2020
The NDP has faced intense criticism over its handling of the ride-hailing file. The government missed two self-imposed deadlines to deliver the service: Christmas 2017 and Christmas 2019.Trevena deflected blame for the delay, arguing the the previous BC Liberal government had five years to bring the service in.The government has also taken fire over its decision to require drivers to have Class 4 licences. Critics say the requirement is onerous, unrelated to the actual tasks of ride-hail drivers, and will discourage people from entering the industry.BC Liberal Transportation Critic Jas Johal said those problems have yet to be resolved.“Where I’m concerned is on day one, are we going to have enough drivers because of this barrier that the NDP have put up in regards to Class 4 licensing,” he said.“I expect Uber and Lyft to focus on the Vancouver core, and perhaps the North Shore. But I don’t expect them to worry about the outer burbs at this point because they’re concerned about drivers. And forget about the rest of the province.”The PTB is working its way through 29 applications by ride-hail companies, and has now approved three.The only other company to get the green light so far is Green Coast Ventures, which has been approved to operate in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Vancouver Island.

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