As two more ride-hailing providers were approved on Feb. 7, Squamish has yet to see an Uber or Lyft operate in the municipality.
The Passenger Transportation Board approved Apt Rides and Kabu Rides Inc. both on Feb. 7, joining Whistle, Uber and Lyft, which can operate in Region 1. This area covers the Lower Mainland, and Sea to Sky areas including Squamish.
Currently, the District of Squamish requires these operators to apply for a municipal business permit. While Whistle has been approved, Uber and Lyft have yet to apply.
"I'm not surprised that those larger companies are not paying attention to smaller urban centres outside of the Lower Mainland," Mayor Karen Elliott told The Chief on Feb. 7. "I, in fact, wondered altogether whether anyone was going to service Squamish. I think that we will see Whistle begin to operate. Since zone one covers everything from Pemberton to Hope, I believe, we will eventually start to see people driving for these different services.
"I think a slow and steady start to this new form of transportation is not a bad thing."
Elliott said the province set the regions, so any company that is approved for Region 1 automatically includes Squamish.
"It's whether they focus on building up drivers in this region. I think that's the difference," she said.
Business licence changes
On Jan. 31, the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation agreed to go forward with the inter-municipal business licence bylaw for ride-hailing companies in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Squamish-Lillooet regional districts. The aim is to eliminate a patchwork of regulations as drivers transport people between municipalities that are all located in the same region. Fees and trip data would be distributed to the involved municipalities every month.
"There's great efficiency in it for us as we learn more about how this service is working in our community and just streamlines the process," Elliott said.
She added that in March, the District of Squamish council will likely be making changes to allow for the regional approach to business licences.
"We are pleased that the Working Group and the Mayors' Council agreed upon an interim inter-municipal business licence (IMBL) framework that will best serve the region's residents and visitors," Sophia Cote, the public policy manager for Lyft in Western Canada, said in an emailed statement to The Chief on Jan. 31.
"At Lyft, our mission is to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation, and we are optimistic that this draft bylaw will allow us to offer riders and drivers a more seamless transportation experience that reflects how people travel within the region."
So far, none of the operators have drivers operating in Squamish.
In a letter to council, dated Jan. 23 when the company received approval from the Passenger Transportation Board, a representative of Lyft wrote that the company does not have enough drivers to serve Squamish. The letter says the Class 4 driver's licence requirement is a roadblock to attracting the drivers needed to operate.
"As we fine-tune our operations and bring more drivers into the community, we'll expand our operating area. Over time, we will work to serve the entire region," a Lyft spokesperson said in an email to The Chief on Feb. 7.
Meanwhile, the drive for Sea to Sky regional transit continues to stall.
"We are going to continue with our lobbying efforts to work with the province to develop a funding model that will work for our region," Elliott said. "I'm not feeling tremendously optimistic, at this point, that we're close to a solution... We'll continue to gather information and insight from other folks across the province who are implementing regional transit systems. At the end of the day, we want to launch a system that is robust and attractive to users and can be sustainably funded. We don't have all of the ingredients to make that work quite yet."
Uber did not respond to The Chief's request for comment.