A decision to reject Uber Canada’s application to operate in B.C.’s Interior and on Vancouver Island has been called “baffling” by Kelowna’s mayor.
Earlier this week, the province’s Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) finally issued a decision on the matter, 16 months after Uber submitted its application to expand service in B.C. on Aug. 31, 2020.
In January 2020, Uber was granted an application to offer ride-sharing services in the Lower Mainland, but the PTB said in its decision that it wasn’t “convinced there exists a public need for the service applied for.”
Read more: B.C. transportation board denies Uber application to operate in Interior, Vancouver Island
That left Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran shaking his head, along with his counterpart in Victoria, which will also remain Uber-less for the time being.
“It’s really disappointing that the board says it is not convinced a public need for ride-hailing services exists outside the Lower Mainland,” Basran said in a public statement.
“That view definitely does not align with what we are hearing and experiencing in Kelowna. Our airport is the largest one in Canada without ride-hailing services, and we hear about that from domestic and international passengers all the time.”
The mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, was also disappointed with the board’s ruling.
“Victoria’s No. 1 private-sector industry is tech, and tech companies have been advocating for Uber since at least 2017 or earlier,” Helps told the Victoria Times-Colonist.
Global News requested an interview with the PTB, but was told in an email that “the chair of the board is not participating in media interviews at the moment.”
In Kelowna, Basran said safety is another reason why Uber is needed, and not just in the Central Okanagan.
“Safety is probably the biggest reason we should have ride-hailing options in Kelowna. They offer another option to get home for people who might be intoxicated,” said Basran.
“Other cities have seen a drop in impaired driving charges after ride-hailing companies began operations. The local taxi industry does not have the surge capacity to fully meet holiday demand.
“Also, contrary to claims that the taxi industry has not recovered from pandemic declines in ridership, provincial data shows the number of taxi trips in our region has more than fully recovered.”
Further, he said Kelowna is one of B.C.’s biggest tech hubs, “and being denied a service that is available virtually everywhere else makes no sense to me. We have done the research and ride-hailing companies are identified in our draft Transportation Master Plan as part of a complete system of personal mobility.”
The mayor said the city will be following up with the board and provincial ministries regarding this decision, “including pointing out the data that shows Kelowna has bucked the provincial trend and has recovered taxi ridership beyond pre-pandemic levels, which seems to be the board’s main argument.”
To view the board’s decision, visit the Passenger Transportation Board’s website.