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Ride-hailing kicks off in British Columbia: Uber, Lyft give first rides

Ride-hailing in Vancouver: Here’s what you need to know
Less than a day after getting the green light to operate in B.C., two major ride-hailing companies have already started picking up passengers in Vancouver. Neetu Garcha reports.

Ride-hailing vehicles are now on the road in British Columbia.

Uber officially kicked off at 8 a.m. Lyft followed soon after.

“The journey to bring Lyft to B.C. has been a long one,” said Lyft general manager Peter Lukomskyj.

“We are excited to be a significant and active part of this community.”

READ MORE: Uber, Lyft launch in Vancouver

But Lyft is limiting where it will be operating. For now the app’s users can only hail a ride in the core of Vancouver, at the PNE and at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

The company is defining Vancouver’s core by 41st Avenue to the south, Dunbar Street to the West and Victoria Drive to the east.

Lyft\’s initial service area.
Lyft\’s initial service area. Lyft

The decision means neither UBC nor any other Metro Vancouver municipality (with the exception of YVR) will have access to the app, for now.

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“We are here for the long haul. We are working with partners from across the region and we are going to try to expand as quickly as we can,” Lukomskyj said.

Uber and Lyft approved for Metro Vancouver and Whistler
Uber and Lyft approved for Metro Vancouver and Whistler

Uber bumped up the launch of its services from 11 a.m. to 8 a.m. The company is kicking off with a much larger service area, wich includes the entirety of the cities of Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster, the Tri-Cities, and most of North Vancouver, Surrey and West Vancouver.

Uber\’s initial service area.
Uber\’s initial service area. Uber

“Riders across Metro Vancouver now have more affordable options to get to where they need to go, when they need to,” Western Canada head for Uber Michael van Hemmen said.

“On behalf of Uber, I’d like to thank the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who have shown their support for ride-hailing in B.C. Uber is here. Vancouverites can now open their Uber app to find convenient transportation to explore their city and great, flexible opportunities to earn money on their own time.”

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YVR has established three new pickup areas for ride-hailing passengers: one at International Arrivals on Level 2, one at the Domestic Arrivals on Level 2, and one at the South Terminal.

Ride-hailing passengers can be dropped off at any permitted unloading location.

The provincial government introduced legislation last year to allow ride-hailing services. But as part of the legislation the government required drivers to have a Class 4 licence.

B.C. transportation minister makes ridesharing announcement
B.C. transportation minister makes ridesharing announcement

The companies have raised concerns that the commercial licence restriction has led to a low number of available drivers and will restrict where they can operate until the driver numbers go up.

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For the time being, the companies will need to secure separate business licences for every city they operate in. Metro Vancouver is working on a single, region-wide licence, but says a framework won’t be ready until at least February.

READ MORE: Uber and Lyft have arrived in Metro Vancouver, but a region-wide licence will take more time

Paul Wu offered one of the first Lyft rides in the city. He says he will be driving for both Lyft and Uber.

“I like how flexible the work is. I can go online whenever I want and do my work and do things in between,” Wu said.

“We needed this long ago. We were the last of major North America cities.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, however, issued a statement reiterating his opposition to the new services.

McCallum said B.C.’s regulations — which have larger zones of operation and no fleet size limits for ride-hailing vehicles — are unfair to taxi companies.

“It is no secret that a large percentage of cab drivers live in Surrey and the modest wages they earn go to support their families,” said McCallum.

“As residents and as my constituents, it is my duty to do what I can to ensure that these jobs are not lost due to an unfair advantage that has been arbitrarily put in place.”

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McCallum said he would not support the issuance of business licences to ride-hailing companies, and would potentially look at asking for more taxi licences from the Passenger Transportation Board.