UPDATED: Uber and Lyft coming to Squamish | Squamish Chief

UPDATED: Uber and Lyft coming to Squamish

Ridehailing services hit the road to Sea to Sky and Lower Mainland

Uber and Lyft have been given the green light by the Passenger Transportation Board of B.C., which means the two popular ride-hailing companies will be coming to Squamish.

On Jan. 23, the board announced its decision, giving both corporations the ability to operate in the Squamish-Lillooet area, Whistler, and Metro Vancouver. Uber said it will consider expanding after operations begin.

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The two companies will join Green Coast Ventures' Whistle app, which was approved on Dec. 16, 2019.

In the board's decision, it describes Uber's future role: "The projections forecast millions of trips across the region, increasing access to mobility options, generating significant direct earnings for British Columbian drivers, and providing a sustainable return to Uber to continue ongoing operations."

Uber's services to start will include private rides for groups of four and six people. It may later add services called UberComfort, UberPool and ExpressPool. The board will not be limiting the company's fleet size and will monitor it.

Lyft's application anticipates it will have between 500 and 1,000 drivers by the time it begins operations in B.C.

“The District is interested to see how ride hailing services will impact the community, particularly in a smaller town,” Mayor Karen Elliott told The Chief in an email. “A business licence will be required for their operation within Squamish.”

"Neither Uber nor Lyft have applied for a business licence in Squamish. We are working towards a regional business licence for ride-hailing operators that, if approved, would likely be in effect by April," an email from a District of Squamish spokesperson said. "Details of draft bylaw for an interim Inter-Municipal Business License (IMBL) for ride-hailing in Region 1 are expected to be announced after January 31. Until then, approved ride-hailing companies should comply with existing municipal bylaws and a District business licence will be required in order for them to operate in Squamish."

As for pricing, Uber and Lyft will be allowed to charge flexible rates and dynamic pricing based on demand, but there will be conditions setting the companies' rate at the taxi flag rate in Region 1.

"The use of up-front pricing will mean that passengers will be aware of Transportation Network Services' rates and will have the choice of accepting or declining the service, including at times of surge prices," the board's decision reads. "Those who are unwilling or incapable of paying the surge prices will still have the option of using taxis or public transit."

The board also notes, "No evidence has shown that the taxi industry was destroyed following the introduction of TNS in any other jurisdiction."

Uber first registered as an extra-provincial company in B.C. in Dec. 2014. The company already operates in more than 40 municipalities in Canada including in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Until now, B.C. was the largest jurisdiction in North America that did not have Uber ride-hailing services.

Meanwhile, Lyft incorporated as a B.C. company in 2017, and operates in more than 360 cities in Canada and the U.S., with service in Toronto and Ottawa beginning in 2017 and 2018.

Although the board received several concerns about Uber and Lyft's history of some drivers who had records of violent crimes or sex offences, the application also includes the companies' safety standards.

Uber said that its drivers will have to pass screening tests that include criminal record checks, driving record checks and vehicle inspections. The company also said it will promote safe use of the app, including driver ID checks via selfies and 24/7 customer support.

The board noted much of Uber's past misconduct took place in non-Canadian jurisdictions and some without regulatory frameworks. Its decision stated there was no evidence of a lack of compliance in multiple Canadian jurisdictions where Uber operates. Uber also included proof of its compliance with regulatory requirements in other areas of Canada, specifically in Ontario.

Lyft will also have pre-trip inspections on vehicles daily as well as screening conditions for safety, driver educational videos and guides for road safety, and driver conditions. Lyft also offers a 24/7 response line, annual background check of drivers and GPS tracking, as well as a zero-tolerance policy.

Both Lyft and Uber have accessibility features for passengers with mobility, vision and hearing accessibility needs. 

As for the impact on the taxi industry, the board said such ride-hailing services are not considered the same as what taxis offer. Ride-hailing and ride-sharing services cannot be flagged down on the street like a taxi, and taxis are the only service providers allowed at taxi stands. Ride-hailing drivers are also able to choose their hours.

In response to the announcement of Uber and Lyft's successful applications, the BC Federation of Labour issued a statement regarding workers.

"People want safe, accessible transit options. But they also want to know that the workers providing their transit are treated fairly," Laird Cronk, the president of the BCFED, said in a press release. "When companies misclassify workers as independent contractors rather than employees, workers lose access to basic employment rights, like the ability to unionize, access to minimum wage, vacation pay and WCB coverage in the event of a workplace injury."

While Cronk said BCFED welcomes ride-hailing to the province, they ask the Passenger Transportation Board to collect and publish data on the earnings and conditions for drivers.

"Road users can now be confident that B.C.'s ride-hailing services will comply with some of the highest safety standards in North America," Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a press release. "Our government is committed to work with both the ride-hail and taxi industries to address outstanding areas in the coming months and futures issues as they arise. We will continue to support a passenger transportation industry that gets people safely where they need to go and ensures sustainable livelihoods for drivers."

While neither company has set a launch date for Squamish yet, they encourage prospective drivers to apply.

"We are working to secure our provincial and municipal business licences and will soon announce our operating area and launch service. We are excited to further unlock the city with reliable and affordable rides, allowing for more spontaneity and convenience," Peter Lukomskyj, the general manager of Lyft BC, said in an emailed statement to The Chief.

The Passenger Transportation Board did not approve applications from ReRyde Technologies Inc and Kater Technologies Inc. Kater had applied for Regions 1 to 5 of B.C., region 1 includes the Lower Mainland and Sea to Sky areas including Squamish.

*This story has been updated to include comment from the District of Squamish. 

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