Time will tell if ride-hailing services will have an impact on the Kamloops taxi industry, according to the manager of one local company.
Kami Cabs manager Simar Singh described the Passenger Transportation Board’s newly announced regulations for ride-hailing services in B.C. as creating an uneven playing field.
Taking the wait-and-see approach, Singh said he won’t know if a Kamloops ride-hailing service would pose a threat to Kamloops’ two taxi businesses until more details are known.
“We have to see which jurisdictions they’ll be working and how many cars they’ll be registering — all these factors play a huge role in how ride-hailing will effect the taxi industry in Kamloops or anywhere,” he said.
If the competition does come to the Tournament Capital, they won’t have the same restrictions taxi companies face. Ride-hailing companies like Lyft will not face caps on the number of drivers on B.C. roads or limits on surge pricing to raise rates during busy events, under rules unveiled last week by the PTB.
“They can just throw all these cars on the road and we have a limit,” Singh said, adding Kami Cabs has 35 licenses, which is its limit.
While the board set the minimum charge for ride-hailing companies as the taxi flag rate, there will be five much larger geographic regions for ride-hailing companies to operate in compared to municipal borders for traditional taxis.
Kamloops is part of the Okanagan-Kootenay Boundary-Cariboo region, encompassing the entire southern Interior.
Kami Cabs is restricted to picking up fares within the city of Kamloops and cannot pick up fares in other jurisdictions such as Chase and Merritt, which ride-hailing companies will be free to do, said Singh.
“They can pick up in Chase, they can end their trip in Kamloops and they can pick up a fare back in Kamloops and take it back to Chase,” Singh said.
Singh also noted that while both services will have the same flag rate, there’s no maximum rate for ride-hailing as the Passenger Transportation Board has set for taxi companies.
“We can’t charge more than $1.99 per-kilometre,” Singh said.
The per kilometre price flexibility for ride-hailing companies will undercut taxi company fares as well, Singh told KTW.
“When it’s slow, Uber can go ahead and do a trip for $3 or $4,” Singh said.
Companies can begin applying for ride-hailing licenses in September.
BC Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said at this time it doesn’t appear ride-hailing services such as Lyft will operate outside Metro Vancouver.
“Basically, right now, they have not shown an inclination to come to Kamloops,” said Kang, adding he thinks Uber and Lyft are more focused on setting up in places with denser populations.
Both companies are non-committal on the Kamloops market at this point.
According to a spokesperson for Uber, the ride hailing service is still reviewing the regulations released by the PTB to determine if it will even operate in B.C.
A Lyft spokesperson told KTW that while the company intends to offer its service throughout the province, the Class 4 commercial licensing requirement will make it more difficult for it to deliver ride-sharing services to all B.C. residents.
“We are committed to B.C. and will continue to work with the PTB and the province to create the conditions for us to bring Lyft to the Lower Mainland before the end of the year, and to more regions throughout B.C. in the future,” stated the spokesperson via email.
Kamloops Liberal MLA Peter Milobar has described the license requirement as a hindrance to the ride-hailing model.
Class 4 licenses create a barrier to the part-time drivers known to pursue ride-hailing work, and he'd prefer both they and taxi drivers be required to have just a Class 5 license, Milobar told KTW.
Milobar, who sat on the all-party committee on ride-hailing, has also said the geographic borders, fleet size and pricing decisions all make sense and were endorsed previously by MLAs, but the NDP’s insistence of Class 4 licenses is a problem.
“What really it’s going to boil down to is this adherence to the Class 4 designations,” said Milobar.
“You are likely going to see a shifting of drivers from the taxi industry to ride-hailing companies which will be further harm to the taxi industry in terms of their ability to compete.”
PTB chair Catharine Read said unlimited fleet sizes and surge pricing are key to the models of ride-hailing companies and her independent tribunal decided to allow them.
“As data becomes available, fleet size may be re-addressed,” she said.
The NDP government had asked the Passenger Transportation Board, an independent agency, to study and set the rules.
At least one ride-hailing service has intentions to begin operating in Kamloops.
Kater Technologies operates a hybrid taxi and ride-hailing service in Metro Vancouver and has plans to launch a traditional ride-hailing option throughout B.C. this fall.
Chief executive officer, Scott Larson, said his company’s arrival in Kamloops will depend on driver and rider supply and demand.
— with files from the Vancouver Sun