The British Columbia government has set up a of series rules and regulations as it opens the door to riding hailing applications for the service on Sept. 3.
There's no exact day when riding hailing could start in the province and opinion varies from mid-September to as late as the end of the year.
NDP MLA Bowinn Ma, who heads an all-party committee that deals with ride hailing, said the service could start by year's end, while a Transportation Ministry bureaucrat said the companies could be approved to operate as early as Sept. 16, which is when all regulations will be in force.
Ma said new regulations require transportation network companies to pay $5,000 annual licence fees, charge 30 cents per ride on vehicles that don't have access for disabled passengers, and have drivers possess class 4 (commercial) licences and wear seatbelts at all times.
The government said an annual inspection is needed if the vehicle has logged 40,000 kilometres in the previous year, vehicles can't be older than 10 years and illegal operators could face fines of $100,000.
Criminal record checks are also required.
Ride hailing companies will need to apply for permission to operate through the Passenger Transportation Board, which will determine the number of licenses, routes and fare structure later this summer.
Kamloops North-Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, who is a member of the all-party committee, described the lack of details surrounding supply, boundaries and fares two months ahead of applications being accepted as “ludicrous” and is disappointed the government is maintaining a class 4 license requirement.
He said class 4 licenses create a barrier to the part-time drivers known to pursue ride-hailing work, and would prefer both they and taxi drivers be required to have just a class 5 license.
In B.C. taxi drivers need a class 4 license, which is also required of anyone who drives a bus or ambulance.
“The reality is the government should have been also looking at modernizing the taxi industry,” said Milobar.
The all-party committee recommended ride-sharing operators not be required to obtain a class 4 license.
Kamloops resident Bryce Herman, who is president and CEO of Advance Hospitality Consulting, said Monday’s announcement “is a step in the right direction” but is still concerned whether or not the service will be heavily restricted in B.C., noting the requirement of a class 4 license.
“The shared economy is really designed to be a more simplified approach so that a person with a clean driving record with a standard license is able to do it,” Herman said.
He said he believes there will be enough room for both ride-hailing and traditional taxi services in Kamloops, and that it’s a benefit to have as many options as possible for people who have been consuming alcohol and cannabis on a night out.
“At the end of the day it creates a much safer environment on the roads,” Herman said.
Milobar said he anticipates ride-hailing apps will help fill the gap at times when there’s a spike in demand from the public in Kamloops for which cab companies cannot always be at the ready.
Uber Canada spokesman Michael van Hemmen says the ride hailing company will review the B.C. policy to evaluate it impacts on the ability to serve customers.
Ian Tostenson of Ridesharing Now for B.C, a coalition sponsored by Uber and Lyft, said he doesn’t expect the Class 4 requirement will kill ride hailing, but added it will slow its roll out.
“What I’m worried about is if [ICBC] is staffed up, geared up and trained up to handle the onslaught of people [applying for class 4],” he said. “I hope they’ve anticipated this because you can imagine all the road tests that would happen for class 4 and you have to have qualified [ICBC driver] examiners — and where are you going to get those guys?”
Recalling his work on the committee, Milobar estimated it takes eight to 10 weeks to obtain a class 4 license.
ICBC will also introduce a new insurance policy for drivers and vehicles operating with ride-hailing companies, effective this September. The policy is a blanket, per kilometre insurance product that provides third-party liability and accident coverage.
—This story was updated to add comment from Kamloops MLA Peter Milobar and CEO of Advance Hospitality Consulting Bryce Herman