British Columbia

'Bad public policy': Taxi industry calls new ride-hailing rules unfair

Vancouver Taxi Association's Carolyn Bauer speaks with Stephen Quinn on her concerns about the Passenger Transportation Board rules for ride-hailing in the province.

Unlimited fleet-size, surge pricing, expanded geographic regions some of the rules revealed Monday

A passenger tries to hail an Uber in downtown Vancouver. The ride-hailing service is scheduled to be available in B.C. beginning in September. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

As ride-hailing vehicles prepare to hit B.C. streets, the Vancouver Taxi Association is voicing concerns about the new rules released Monday by the Passenger Transportation Board.

On Monday, the Passenger Transportation Board announced there will be no initial limits on fleet size for ride-hailing companies, but a cap could be imposed later if congestion becomes an issue. 

Board chair Catherine Read also said the minimum rate a transportation network service may charge will be equivalent to the taxi base rate, but price surging will be allowed.

Ride-hailing companies will also have larger operating areas, unlike taxi companies in the Lower Mainland, which have geographic restrictions on which passengers they can serve based on which municipality they belong to. 

Carolyn Bauer, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Taxi Association and a general manager at Yellow Cab, said the new rules are "clearly not in the interest of the public at all.

"We feel that this is bad public policy," Bauer said. 

Bauer says the fact that fleet size is unlimited means the city could experience massive traffic congestion problems and argues putting a cap on afterwards would be too difficult. 

"Once you open the door, it's open. You can't restrict it," she said.

Bauer said she was also concerned about the pricing rules, even though ride-hailing cars and taxis would share the same base rates. 

"They are not restricted to an amount that they will be charging on a per kilometre basis. They will be able to charge whatever they want to charge, as well as surge pricing," she said. 

Bauer said the taxi association is open to ride-hailing, but the government is not going about it the right way. 

"Bring on ride-sharing but bring it on on a level playing field," she said.

"Unlimited vehicles, congestion, the movement, the right for the driver to earn a living wage — [it's] not there. This is not there."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says he supports limits on ride-hailing. 

"We would have preferred to see a reasonable cap on the number of ride-hailing vehicles," Farnworth said in a statement. 

"Many British Columbians and their families rely on the taxi industry and a priority for this government is to ensure we avoid excessive congestion."

He's calling for the decision on fleet size to be revisited in four to six months.

Legislation will come into effect Sept. 3, 2019, when the board will begin to accept applications. The remaining parts of the act come into effect Sept. 16.

Listen to Carolyn Bauer's interview with host Stephen Quinn on CBC's The Early Edition:

With files from The Early Edition