British Columbia

Lyft, Uber waste little time launching in Vancouver

The rubber hit the road for Uber and Lyft less than 24 hours after being approved by the Passenger Transportation Board.

Lyft service will be limited to the Vancouver core while Uber will cover a bigger swath of Metro Vancouver

Peter Lukomskyj, Lyft general manager, announces the ride-hailing service is now live in Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Uber and Lyft wasted little time launching competing ride-hailing operations and apps in Vancouver Friday morning, less than 24 hours after receiving approval from the provincial government.

Uber claimed its debut passenger booked a ride in a Tesla 3 at 7:45 a.m. in Richmond. 

Lyft driver and general manager Peter Lukomskyj picked up his company's first rider at a ceremonial kickoff outside the Vancouver Convention Centre at 8:30 a.m.

Neither company will divulge how many drivers each have signed up, but it's clear from pitches delivered at the launch news conferences, both are looking for more.

Michael van Hemmen, Uber’s head of Western Canada at the launch in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lukomskyj said Lyft will limit operations to the core of Vancouver until it has more drivers, using Dunbar Street to the west, Victoria Drive to the east and 41st Avenue to the south as boundaries. It will also service the Pacific National Exhibition and Vancouver International Airport. 

Uber's operating area covers a much bigger swath of Metro Vancouver, including Coquitlam, Surrey, Delta, West and North Vancouver. 

Passengers can request an Uber anywhere within the service area and they can be dropped off anywhere inside or outside the service area.

However, passengers cannot start a trip outside the service area.

For example, a passenger can request an Uber from downtown Vancouver to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, which is outside the service zone. But they can't request an Uber from the ferry terminal to downtown Vancouver. 

The same goes for Tsawwassen ferry terminal, which is also outside the service area. 

In a release, Uber said it would expand "as soon as more drivers complete the permit requirements."

After months of delays, the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) suddenly announced it had approved ride-hailing midday Thursday.

Taxi association fighting back

Carolyn Bauer, spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association and general manager of Yellow Cab, said association members are extremely upset with the decision.

"This is going to be financially devastating for the taxi industry and the families that have built their lives around this industry," Bauer said Friday on The Early Edition.

Uber operating area in Metro Vancouver. (Uber)

Bauer said the association is pursuing a judicial review and requesting the PTB put a brief stay on the decision until the injunction application can be heard.

She is calling on the board to regulate the number of ride-hailing vehicles in the same way it restricts the size of taxi fleets.

"If we have 2,500 taxis operating in Vancouver, put out 2,500 ride-share vehicles," said Bauer. "Bring ride-share, but bring it fair."

In a statement, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum reiterated his opposition to ride-hailing.

"What continues to be my chief concern is the unfair advantage that has been created without any regard as to how it will impact those who are employed in the taxi industry. It is no secret that a large percentage of cab drivers live in Surrey," he said. 

McCallum said he will be asking the PTB for an increase in taxi licences in Surrey.

In a statement, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokeswoman Danielle Pope said the government is committed to working with both industries to address outstanding concerns and issues that arise in the coming months.

Municipalities can set requirements for business licences for ride-hailing operators but provincial laws prohibit blocking ride-hailing altogether. 

Day 1 snapshot

Ride-hailing services use demand pricing, as opposed to fixed taxi charges. Here's a look at what the companies' apps were saying this morning about two sample journeys:

A ride from CBC at 700 Hamilton Street to English Bay at 8:30 a.m:

  • Yellow Cab: estimated $9 fare, estimated wait time 5 minutes.
  • Lyft: $10.38 fare, estimated wait time 25 minutes.
  • Uber: no cars available.

CBC to English Bay at 9 a.m. 

  • Yellow Cab: estimated $9 fare, estimated wait time 23 minutes 
  • Lyft: $10.37 fare, estimated wait time 24 minutes.
  • Uber: $9.92 fare, estimated wait time 10 minutes.

Rate structures for the two companies are 33 cents a minute, but Uber will charge 70 cents per kilometre while Lyft charges 65 cents, and base and services fees for Uber are $4.50 compared with Lyft's $5.

Taxi rates can vary in Metro Vancouver, but the base fare is generally $3.25 and $1.88 per kilometre.

With files from Brigette Watson and Charlie Cho


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