British Columbia

Holiday ride-hailing in B.C. in doubt, but companies still hopeful

If you were hoping to use ride-hailing to get home from a Christmas party, you might be disappointed. An extension as part of the application process could delay the roll-out, while B.C.'s transportation minister will only say it'll happen 'this year.'

Delayed application process leaves Christmas launch in question, but premier confident it will happen

B.C.'s Passenger Transportation Board has extended the application process up to 21 days. While the transportation minister will only say ride-hailing will be here 'this year,' the premier says he's committed to seeing it launch by Christmas. (Reuters)

If you were hoping to use ride-hailing to get home from a Christmas party, there's a chance you could be disappointed.

The timeline for its roll-out in B.C. has been muddied by a three-week extension to the application process to allow for additional feedback from those affected.

That means it's not clear whether companies like Uber and Lyft will be operating in time for the holidays, although the premier is confident that will be the case.

The Passenger Transportation Board, which oversees ride-hailing in B.C. sent a letter to applicants Wednesday. 

It cited a recent judicial review launched by the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Taxi Association. 

In the letter, the board says it has decided to modify the application process to allow those submitting applications to review each other's responses in order to ensure transparency.

The letter, signed by chair Catharine Read, said applicants will have seven extra days to respond with comments followed by 14 days for any final submissions. 

Once that step is complete, the board will announce licensing approvals on a per-company basis. 

Premier committed to Christmas ride-hailing

The Transportation Ministry told CBC the combined 21 days outlined in the letter is the maximum window of time, meaning the final review process could end sooner. 

Still, the transportation minister would not say whether ride-hailing will launch in time for the Christmas season. 

"I'm confident we're going to get ride-hailing in British Columbia this year," Claire Trevena repeatedly told reporters at the legislature Thursday. 

She added 19 applicants are before the board, which, she pointed out, operates independently of government. 

Premier John Horgan was much more optimistic with his expectations. 

"I've made it abundantly clear to anyone who will listen that I believe we need to have ride-hailing here — fair ride-hailing here — by Christmas, and that's my commitment," Horgan said Thursday.

"We're going at the speed we believe is appropriate for public safety and appropriate for fairness to the existing sector."

But the opposition claims the government's mishandling of the roll-out will leave passengers stranded this December.

"The latest delay tactic by the NDP means British Columbians expecting ride-hailing by this holiday season are going to be disappointed," said Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA Peter Milobar.

Uber and Lyft ready and waiting

The two largest ride-hailing operators in B.C., Uber and Lyft, are ready to launch operations as soon as licences are approved.

"We are aware of the delay and are working closely with the Passenger Transportation Board to move our application forward as quickly as possible," said Lyft B.C. General Manager Peter Lukomskyj in an email. 

The spokesperson for Uber B.C. gave a similar response, still hopeful they'll be up and running by next month.

"Our goal is still to be [operating] this holiday season, but a launch date depends on when we receive government approvals," spokesperson Michael van Hemmen said in a statement.

About the Author

Provincial Affairs Reporter covering the B.C. Legislature. Anything political: tanya.fletcher@cbc.ca

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