British Columbia

No new taxis or Uber for Vancouver, council decides

Even though Vancouver councillors say the city is short cabs, especially during peak hours, they are still not willing to open up the streets to more competition, including Uber cabs.

City failed to end the moratorium on licences after overwhelming push back from cabbies.

Even though Vancouver councillors say the city is short cabs, especially during peak hours, they are still not willing to open up the streets to more competition, including Uber cabs.

Thursday night the city failed to end the moratorium on licences, after overwhelming push back from cabbies.

"I don't want to say [the staff report] was rejected," said Counc. Melissa De Genova."It just makes no sense to me that we would move forward with 38 suburban cabs, and not with the 58 accessible cabs that are so needed."

In the end councillors did reject parts of the staff report that urged the city to let outside cabs help with weekend service crunch and left an existing moratorium on new licences in place for another year.

The jam-packed council meeting included taxi industry representatives who said problems with long wait times could be solved by allowing them to put more cabs on during busy times, and adding more accessible taxis to their fleet.

Michael Van Hemmen, public policy manager for Uber Canada, says ride-sharing actually increases the market, instead of cutting into it. (CBC)

Meanwhile the public policy manager for Uber Canada, Michael Van Hemmen, told council that with more people opting to forgo a car, the taxi companies will not be decimated by opening up the streets to the so-called ride-share drivers.

Asked why Uber faces so many objections, he cited misunderstanding, and countered that Uber actually "grows the pie," by increasing demand from customers wanting rides.

Van Hemmen explained that ride-sharing causes more fear than companies like Airbnb because, "they are not disrupting a supply-managed industry. Right now there isn't a cap that says you can't build any more hotels."

We are not a monopoly

Fears of ride-sharing services like Uber have Canadian cab companies raising red flags about allowing Uber on the streets.

"It's not push back from us. It's about making a proper living," said Carolyn Bauer, general manager of Yellow Cabs, who pointed out that Uber has not even made a formal application to operate in Vancouver.

"You have to play on a level playing field here."

She urges the city to allow Uber, but just make the service operate under the same rules cabbies do.

"We are not this monopoly people seem to feel that we are," said Bauer.

Last night's council decision was seen as a stalling by some who lashed out on Twitter.

Others pointed to the $53,000 the Vancouver Taxi Association contributed to Vision Vancouver in 2014.

"I mean everybody donates to the elections, I mean all corporations do," said Bauer.

Counc. Geoff Meggs says Vancouver needs help in this issue.

"We are asking the province to sit down and help us and other stake holders, like the airport, the port [and] tourism industry, to devise a better policy for the future."

No suburban invaders

Last night's decision followed a city staff report that aimed to rev up taxi service that went before city council this week.

It said Vancouver lags behind other Canadian cities when it comes to taxi service, especially in the entertainment district.

Vancouver has fewer than half the taxis per capita when compared to Montreal or even Halifax. In Toronto there are also more cabs for the hailing, it found.

But the taxi industry said the city report was an unfair comparison, as most cities do not run cabs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

City staff had called to end the moratorium on new taxi licenses, and to introduce more permanent peak period licenses to 99 downtown, and 38 suburban taxis.

At last night's meeting cabbies decried these  "suburban invaders."

The call to let 38 suburban cabs operate in peak hours, also failed.

"To solve a problem here and create it somewhere else doesn't make any sense,"  said Kalwant Sahota, president of Yellow Cabs in Vancouver.

Passenger Transporation Safety Board also disallowed 58 accessible taxis on the road that some believe would alleviate hour-long wait times for passengers with disabilities.