Ride-hailing legislation introduced by B.C. government

After years of waiting, British Columbians may finally be able to catch a ride in an Uber or Lyft — but not quite yet.

Uber and Lyft will likely not be available for several months still

The Transportation Ministry has said it could take until next September before ride-hailing companies like Uber submit applications to operate in B.C. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

After years of waiting, British Columbians may finally be able to catch a ride in an Uber or Lyft — but not quite yet.

The B.C. government introduced legislation Monday to allow ride-hailing in the province by sometime in 2019. The proposed changes include amendments to eight provincial statutes.

"This is milestone legislation that gets ride-hailing right for B.C.," Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said in a news release.

"British Columbians absolutely want more options and flexibility in how they get around but with checks in place to make sure their ride is a safe one."

Premier John Horgan has previously said he expects the legislation to be passed in time for the Christmas holidays, but it may take a year or longer for ride-hailing to become a reality in B.C.

If approved, the amendments would significantly expand the power of the Passenger Transportation Board, which will have more authority to determine fares and the number of licensed vehicles in each area.

Drivers for services like Uber and Lyft will need to have Class 4 licences, which means they'll have to undergo criminal record checks and medical fitness checks every five years. On the other hand, taxi and ride-hailing drivers won't need separate chauffeur permits for each city they drive in.

Still no firm estimate for when service will begin

Trevena told reporters she expects the amendments would end longstanding problems for passengers trying to travel between downtown Vancouver and the suburbs.

"With the changes proposed today, people will no longer be left stranded," she said.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena introduced legislation Monday that would allow ride-hailing companies to operate in B.C. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

And there will be stiffer penalties for illegal taxis and ride-hailing companies — companies could be fined up to $100,000, a steep increase from the current $5,000 maximum.

From all indications, it appears it'll take until late 2019 at the earliest before Uber and Lyft will actually be available in B.C. cities — the province says ICBC will need until the fall of next year to develop an appropriate insurance product.

Trevena declined to give an estimate for when ride-hailing vehicles might actually hit the streets in B.C.

"We are limited by insurance. Nobody's going to be on the road until there is an insurance product that works for them," she said.

In a statement, a spokesperson with Lyft said the government has taken an "important step toward bringing ride-sharing to B.C."

"However, the regulatory structure that would enable true ride-sharing has yet to be seen and it is unfortunate that B.C. will be without ride-sharing for yet another year."

No matter how soon it happens, it'll still be a significant delay from what many British Columbians had expected when the current government came into power.

During the last provincial election campaign, the NDP pledged to bring in ride-hailing legislation by the end of 2017. Earlier this year, there was some suggestion that ride-hailing would be allowed in B.C. sometime in 2018.