NDP leader John Horgan speaks on behalf of taxi drivers concerned about unregulated competitors at the B.C. legislature in 2014. Since forming government, the NDP has moved ahead with restricted approval of ride hailing licences by the end of 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. taxi app gets set to launch before ride-hailing allowed

Kater plans to link cab companies to customers province-wide

The Vancouver Taxi Association is moving ahead with its own ride-hailing system, using a B.C.-based smartphone app that will allow taxi companies to co-operate to deliver the nearest licensed cab to customers.

Kater, a Surrey-based company, has plans to launch its own fleet of vehicles to compete with established ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber. But for now it wants to set up taxis to use its app, starting in the Lower Mainland, the only large metropolitan area in North America that doesn’t have legal ride-hailing.

RELATED: B.C. ride hailing battle carries on into 2019

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The association has informed the B.C. Passenger Transportation Branch that it has formalized an agreement with Kater to begin using the service in some of its member taxis, the B.C. transportation ministry confirmed in a statement. The taxi group wants to get a jump on ride-hailing, which the province intends to legalize by the end of this year.

“The ministry, through the Passenger Transportation Branch, is taking steps to ensure that all current provincial and licensing requirements are met including a regular, government approved safety inspection of the vehicles, insurance that will cover the carrying of paying passengers and compliance with licence boundaries and other requirements until the fall of 2019 when new regulations will come into force that will allow ride-hailing companies to enter the market,” the ministry statement said.

Last January, Vancouver Taxi Association representative Carolyn Bauer announced the plan to partner with Kater. Bauer told a B.C. government committee the taxi industry wants to embrace new technology, and recognizes the problems people face getting a ride around Metro Vancouver.

“We’re the ones that are being screamed at when people can’t get service,” Bauer told MLAs.

The committee was proposed by B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who has pushed for B.C. to join most large cities in North America to allow Uber, Lyft and other services to supplement taxi service.

The NDP government passed legislation in November to allow ride-hailing services as soon as next fall, with restrictions on their numbers and a requirement for private vehicle drivers to obtain a class four driver’s licence, pass a criminal record check and have vehicles inspected.

Michael van Hemmen, Uber Canada’s Western Canada manager, called the restrictions “key barriers to entry that have prevented ride sharing from operating in B.C.,” but said his company will continue to work with the province to begin operations.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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