The chair of the TransLink Mayors’ Council says a regional ride-hailing business licence is still in the works for Metro Vancouver, meaning drivers signing up for Uber and Lyft will have to rely on individual licences for each municipality they plan to operate in.
But with the costs of those licences ranging from $25 to over $500 per vehicle, that could make driving and picking up across the region too pricey for many to consider right now.
Jonathan Cote said that could start to change as soon as early February, however, when the framework for the regional licence is expected to be ready.
“We would then still need each of the city councils to approve whether they want to participate in this regional framework, and that is an individual decision by the councils,” he said.
Cote said staff from each municipality is working together on the framework.
The two major ride-hailing companies officially entered the B.C. market Thursday with just seven Metro Vancouver municipalities offering business licences, a majority of which come with per-vehicle fees.
Drivers will only be allowed to pick up passengers in cities where they hold a licence, although they can still drop those customers off across municipal borders.
Burnaby has the highest business fee at $510 per vehicle. Richmond will be charging each vehicle $132, Vancouver’s fee is $100 and Delta’s is $25 per driver.
The Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have approved a single ride-hailing licence that does not have a per-vehicle fee, while New Westminster and the North Shore municipalities have not yet introduced their own licences.
Cote said those municipalities with no regulations or licences in place will still allow ride-hailing to operate while they wait for the regional licence to be ready for approval.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has sworn his city will not issue any business licence to ride-hailing drivers, even though the Passenger Transportation Board’s decision overrides that pledge.
McCallum was the sole dissenting vote against the regional ride-hailing licence that was green-lit by the Mayors’ Council in December.
Cote said it’s possible Surrey could end up not signing onto the regional licence once it’s ready to be approved, meaning drivers would have to appeal to that city directly for a separate licence.
“Having said that, I am anticipating that the vast majority of municipalities in Metro Vancouver will be fully on board with this regional approach,” he said.
McCallum and the City of Surrey did not return requests for comment Thursday.
Vancouver issued licences hours after the Passenger Transportation Board announced Thursday they had approved Uber and Lyft to operate in the Lower Mainland and Whistler.
Over 300 vehicles have already been approved to operate for Lyft, while Uber has not yet shared how many vehicles make up its fleet.
The cost of those business licences are being added to existing costs for drivers to obtain a Class 4 licence, which adds up to another $100: $15 for a knowledge test, $40 for a road test, $28 for medical processing, and $17 for replacing a current licence.
Cote said he’s hopeful municipalities get on board with the regional licence once it’s ready to allow ride-hailing to fully integrate into the region’s transportation system.
But he warned there could still be some challenges ahead, including potential traffic congestion as seen in other major cities.
“I think cities have to be mindful of that as ride-hailing becomes part of our transportation system here,” he said.