Ride-hailing services should be on B.C. roads next year

Legislation seeks to create a way for taxi companies to compete with Uber and other similar services

The provincial government is paving the way for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to set up shop in B.C. as early as next year.

The Ministry of Transportation unveiled Monday the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act — a piece of potential legislation intentionally devoid of words like “app,” “ride-hailing” and “taxi.”

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“We’ve learned from other jurisdictions to get this right, so proper checks are in place,” Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said, noting the delay in getting service in place is due to ICBC’s development of an insurance product to cover drivers and protect passengers.

That process is underway and expected to be completed next year.

“Then it’s a matter of how quickly the Passenger Transportation Board can move,” Trevena said.

Under the legislation, B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board would handle applications from potential “passenger-directed vehicle” operators in a manner similar to what is now used to license taxis.

The PTB will determine how many operators work in particular geographical areas.

The legislation also includes hefty hikes in fines for offenders operating in the ride-hailing market without proper licensing. What was once a $1,500 fine for an illegal operator now has a ceiling of $50,000 and companies could be dinged for up to $100,000.

Trevena said she expects to see applications filed soon.

Also included in the proposed legislation:

• The Passenger Transportation Board will have authority to determine rates charged to passengers, as well as the supply and operating area of vehicles operating under the authority of a licence authorizing transportation network services.

• The authority of municipal governments to limit supply or operating areas of passenger-directed vehicles that the board has approved will be restricted.

Local governments will still set vehicle type, taxi stand locations and local business-licence requirements.

• A new per-trip fee will cover a portion of costs to fund accessible taxis, as well as administrative costs of the Passenger Transportation Act. The existing industry would pay current fees for a fixed period before transitioning over to a new fee structure.

• All drivers of passenger-directed vehicles will be required to meet a provincial standard to be set by regulation for criminal and driver record checks by eliminating the need for taxi and future drivers to obtain a municipal chauffeur permit in each municipality.

According to the ministry, ride-hailing services could be in operation by the fall of 2019.

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