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No fleet-size limits or price surge restrictions for ride-hailing companies in B.C.

RIDE-HAILING BORDERS

What taxis wanted: Taxi companies did not want ride-hailing companies to get permission to operate in large areas, because taxis are confined to municipal boundaries. The companies told the board during public consultations that they were worried Uber and Lyft drivers in big geographic areas would simply rush into peak locations at peak times and take trips away from taxi drivers.

But taxis also failed to present a united front to the board during public consultations last month. The larger B.C. Taxi Association called on municipal taxi borders to be eliminated so taxis could better compete with ride-hailing companies, especially those from growing centres like Surrey. Eliminating borders could solve problems like “deadheading” — where taxis from Surrey, for example, take a passenger to downtown Vancouver but can’t pick up anyone there for a return trip because of licensing restrictions.

The Vancouver Taxi Association argued that the current boundaries for Vancouver should remain. Uber and Lyft should be restricted or else their drivers will flood the downtown core at peak times, congesting the roads, frustrating the travelling public and stealing taxi fares, the Vancouver association claimed. It could also dramatically decrease the value of the 882 Vancouver taxi licences.

What ride-hailing companies wanted: Uber and Lyft wanted no boundaries but told the board during public consultations that they would settle for regional boundaries if they were developed based on traffic flow patterns. In Metro Vancouver, for example, the companies wanted Aldergrove, Abbotsford and Chilliwack included.

What the Passenger Transportation Board decided: There will be five large regional boundaries in B.C. for ride-hailing companies:

• Lower Mainland, Whistler — including Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet

• Capital Regional District — excluding the Gulf Islands

• Vancouver Island — excluding the CRD

• Okanagan-Kootenay-Boundary-Cariboo — including the Central Okanagan, North Okanagan, Kootenay Boundary, Shuswap Cariboo, Thompson-Nicola and Columbia.

• B.C. North Central and all other regions of B.C.

Monday’s decision did not change the existing borders for taxi companies, which are confined along municipal lines in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond and elsewhere. The board cited a lack of available data and the contentious nature of changing taxi borders, noting it would take more time to consult than was available.

The decision means taxi companies will operate with smaller borders, whereas ride-hailing companies will have much more freedom of movement around Metro Vancouver.

FLEET SIZE

What taxis wanted: Taxi companies argued that ride-hailing companies should have the size of their fleets capped so that they could not overwhelm the number of traditional taxis on the road and devalue taxi licences. The Vancouver Taxi Association proposed companies like Uber and Lyft should only be allowed to operate half the number of vehicles as taxi licences — so a combined 441 ride-hailing cars in Vancouver compared to the existing 882 traditional taxi licenses.

The association told the board that if it failed to put a cap on ride-hailing fleet sizes from the very beginning, “it will be virtually impossible to put the genie back into the bottle.” 

In Victoria, the large taxi companies proposed fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies should only total 10-15 percent of the size of the taxi fleet in the city.

What ride-hailing companies wanted: Uber and Lyft said they did not want any cap on fleet size because their “dynamic model” of business requires variable numbers of drivers at peak times.

Smaller ride-hailing companies told the board during public consultations that they were fine with fleet sizes, though they wanted the board to monitor the impact of whatever was selected so the cap could be adjusted for market conditions, congestion and the ability of drivers to do enough business to earn a living wage.

What the Passenger Transportation Board decided: No limits on fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies. Instead, the board will monitor data collected and re-evaluate the fleet size issue in future years.

RATES

What taxis wanted: The taxi companies feared Uber and Lyft would “use their deep pockets to subsidize trips until they have irreparably hurt the taxi industry,” according to a summary of the public consultation meetings. Taxis called on the board to set the minimum ride-hailing rate as at least the same as the taxi flag rate, to prevent “predatory pricing.” The Vancouver Taxi Association went further, suggesting ride-hailing be priced 10 percent higher than traditional taxis.

What ride-hailing companies wanted: Ride-hailing companies in most markets use “surge” pricing that can fluctuate from during a day depending on traffic, vehicle availability and market conditions. Uber and Lyft asked for no minimum rate on rides but admitted they do operate in some areas where governments have set minimum rates. The smaller ride-hailing companies told the board they would be fine with a minimum rate set at the taxi flag rate.

What the Passenger Transportation Board decided: Ride-hailing companies will have to set the minimum fare on rides at the taxi flag rate — roughly $3.25-$3.95 in Metro Vancouver. Coupons and discounts will not be allowed. But surge pricing and variable pricing higher than taxi rates will be allowed. That means prices could jump way up for a ride after a concert, sports game or during a busy time of day.

rshaw@postmedia.com

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