Driver responds to customer call using Uber, a popular ride-hailing app used in large cities around the world. (Wikimedia Commons)

B.C. to allow Uber-style ride hailing services to operate in late 2019

Fee will be applied to fund options for disabled people

The B.C. government is changing a series of laws to allow ride-hailing services in the province, with insurance for drivers of Uber and Lyft-style services available by the fall of 2019.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said Monday B.C. has learned from other jurisdictions where ride-hailing services were authorized without question. B.C. intends to avoid issues like “gridlock” at peak passenger demand times and declining use of public transportation, Trevena told the legislature.

The Passenger Transportation Board will be allowed to issue licences for new services, including penalties for infractions up to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for companies.

ICBC will have a new insurance option by next fall for ride-hailing services, Trevena said Monday. A fee will be added to each ride to finance options for disabled customers, but the amount is not yet determined.

The legislation expands the Passenger Transportation Board’s jurisdiction to determine boundaries of service, which has been an impediment to taxi services in B.C. in the past. Existing taxi companies and new operators would have to apply to the board for new or expanded services

All ride-hailing drivers will have to obtain a class-four licence to drive for hire. This includes a criminal record check. A fee will be added to each ride to finance options for disabled customers.

Michael van Hemmen, Western Canada representative for Uber, said he is concerned about B.C. retaining a cap on the number of drivers.

“We’re looking at a model that allows as many people as possible to safely participate,” van Hemmen said. “So if you’ve got a safe driving record, you’ll be able to give a ride to a friend, a colleague or a stranger via the Uber app, to help reduce impaired driving among other challenges for our transportation system.”

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the long process and government committee oversight mean no ride sharing in B.C. this Christmas, and likely next Christmas as well.

“The NDP have set this up to fail,” Wilkinson said. “They’re setting up a complex government bureaucracy that’s going to collect data for a long time, and basically this is not customer driven or market driven, this is NDP driven.”

Wilkinson added there is no reason he’s aware of that prevents private insurers from offering coverage for ride-hailing drivers.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada suggested Monday that if the delay is a result of Insurance Corp. of B.C.’s lack of insurance options for drivers using their personal vehicles for part-time commercial work, private companies should get a chance.

“Other Canadian insurers provide ride-sharing insurance in other Canadian cities, and could quickly serve the B.C. marketplace,” said Aaron Sutherland, the bureau’s vice-president for the Pacific region.

The 2017 NDP campaign platform promised to deliver ride hailing by the end of that year. As minister, Trevena first cleared the way for up to 500 more taxi licences across the province.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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