British Columbia

Lyft set to launch ride-hailing in Vancouver area before end of the year

Ride-hailing company Lyft says it's confident it will begin operations in fall 2019.

Company already operates in Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area

Lyft says it's confident it will begin operations in the Lower Mainland in fall 2019. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Ride-hailing company Lyft says it plans to be operating in the Vancouver area before the end of this year.

The Passenger Transportation Board in B.C. has yet to unveil its final ride-hailing regulations, but a statement from Lyft says the company is confident its operations will begin in the Lower Mainland sometime this fall.

"As soon as we have our licence secured, as well as our supply of drivers in order for the network to operate efficiently, secured, then we'll be launching our service for passengers," said Peter Lukomskyj, who has been named Lyft's general manager for B.C.

The B.C. Transportation Ministry has set Sept. 3 as the date ride-hailing companies can apply to enter the market, while rules covering fares and the number of vehicles permitted for each ride-booking service are expected by the end of the summer.

Lukomskyj says the company hopes to expand throughout the province, especially into areas where additional transportation options are most needed.

But given the number of Class 4 commercially licensed drivers required to sustain the ride-hailing network, he says the company's immediate focus is the Lower Mainland, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.

"We don't operate in any other jurisdiction that has a Class 4 requirement, so that's a bit of an unknown for us right now. We obviously know that there are Class 4 drivers out there today, but we don't know how many other drivers will convert from Class 5 to Class 4," said Lukomskyj. 

Class 4 licence holders include taxi, limousine and ambulance drivers. They must be at least 19 years old with a minimum of two years of non-learner experience and fewer than four penalty points over the preceding two years.

Lukomskyj says a critcal mass of drivers is needed in every market Lyft begins operating in in order to deliver high quality service to passengers. 

"We are still quite concerned about the requirement for drivers to have commercial licences as it will negatively impact driver supply and restrict the regions in which we are able to operate," said Lukomskyj.

In order to encourage drivers to join the company, Lyft says it will help them obtain Class 4 licences. 

"We know that there's a knowledge test and a road test requirement, and we will be helping with that education," said Lukomskyj. "Any costs associated with upgrading the licence from a regular license to a Class 4 are ones that we will help the drivers get cost neutral on."

Numerous organizations in B.C., including the craft brewers guild, epilepsy society and the province's gaming and restaurant associations have called for ride-hailing.

Lyft already operates in Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area between Hamilton and Oshawa.

In the U.S., the company says its ride-hailing app is available to 95 per cent of the population.

With files from Cory Correia

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