Uber Looking for Drivers in Vancouver (But Don’t Pick Up Any Passengers Yet!)

IMG_2115Have a car and want to make a few extra bucks?

Uber, the ride-for-hire company that’s challenged the traditional taxi industry, has begun posting ads for Vancouver drivers on its website and on the job site Workopolis. “Driving with Uber is a great way to earn cash on your schedule. The more drive, the more you can earn,” the ads boast.

But don’t expect to be pocketing any extra cash anytime soon. Uber still isn’t permitted to operate in Vancouver or British Columbia. The ads are part of a push to gauge interest among drivers and also publicize the benefits of the Uber platform.

Drivers must be at least 21, have a four-door vehicle and a valid driver’s license and insurance. Uber claims that drivers can earn up to $39.60 an hour, after the company takes its 25-percent cut on all fares.

At the same time, Uber has also opened up a “sneak preview” feature for Vancouverites looking for a ride. Users who have downloaded the app can log in and get a mock-up of Uber drivers in their immediate vicinity, with an estimate of wait times.

While these rides can’t actually be booked yet, users are prompted to “make this a reality” and directed to an online campaign. A pre-filled email pops up addressed to Premier Christy Clark and Transportation Minister Todd Stone, with the subject line “Please support Uber in British Columbia.”

IMG_2116All of this is part of a larger promotional blitz on the part of Uber, including radio ads, to ramp up pressure on the B.C. government. In the past, the ride-sharing company has been forcefully rebuffed in its attempts to set up shop in Vancouver. Uber was available 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, and, 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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 8.17.32 AMBut in a dramatic about-face, Stone announced earlier this year 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, ride-sharing 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.”

Since then, however, things seem to have reached a standstill. The province remains concerned about safety and insurance issues, as well as the impact on the taxi industry. Regulators have threatened Uber with harsh penalties if the company actually opens up the app to Vancouver users.

Photo credit: Mark Warner | Flickr

Photo credit: Mark Warner | Flickr

At present, Uber is available in 68 countries and in select cities across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. The company’s smartphone app lets users hail and pay for a ride, at rates often far lower than traditional taxis. Drivers generally use their own cars, require no special qualifications or certifications and typically drive just part-time to earn extra income.

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