It looks like there’s a glimmer of hope for Uber in Vancouver.
The ride-sharing company, which has been forcefully rebuffed in its previous attempts to operate in Vancouver, may be getting a reprieve. In a dramatic about-face, provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced this week that ride-sharing in B.C. may soon be a reality, according to reports in the Vancouver Sun.
“… it’s a matter of when, not if, ridesharing will be prevalent in B.C.,” Stone said. “I think there’s a growing recognition (of) the issues of convenience, of choice, of competition, which British Columbians are increasingly expecting.”
While no official timeline has been set, Uber’s prospects in Vancouver have never looked better.
The taxi alternative with the nifty app operated briefly here in 2012 before being forced to withdraw by provincial regulators (who imposed a $75 minimum charge on all rides). Subsequent applications to operate were rejected by the city, while the local taxi industry sought an injunction (later dropped), alleging the company planned to put unlicensed drivers on the road. As late as 2014, Minister Stone was promising to send out plainclothes transit agents to track down rogue Uber drivers and saddle them with $5,000 fines.
But all that now seems to be a thing of the past. Uber has conducted extensive meetings with city officials over the past year, and the company appears to be making headway. Paramount among its objectives is getting new laws on the books that allow its drivers to obtain special ride-sharing licenses. These licenses would come with their own sets of fees, insurance and driver checks but, critically, would be different from traditional taxi licenses, which are strictly limited, prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain.
Uber is currently available in 68 countries and in select cities across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. A smartphone app lets users hail and pay for a ride, at rates often far lower than traditional taxis. Drivers generally use their own cars, rather than standard vehicles, and many drive just part-time to make extra income.