British Columbia

Vancouver taxis ask Supreme Court of B.C. to quash ride-hailing rules

A group of Vancouver-based taxis is asking the Supreme Court of B.C. to quash rules recently introduced by the Passenger Transportation Board that would allow ride-hailing to begin legally operating in B.C.

Letters from B.C. officials to taxi industry acknowledge its concerns

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

A group of Vancouver-based taxis is asking the Supreme Court of B.C. to quash rules recently introduced by the Passenger Transportation Board that would allow ride-hailing to begin legally operating in B.C.

Nine taxi companies from the Metro Vancouver area filed the petition Wednesday, arguing the rules put taxis at a disadvantage against companies like Lyft and Uber.

"We just think it was a mistake for the Passenger Transportation Board to rush out in advance of any applications and set rules without really examining the business practices of [ride-sharing companies] Uber and Lyft," said Peter Gall, the lawyer representing the taxi companies. 

The court action followed correspondence Tuesday from Premier John Horgan to the Vancouver Taxi Association, acknowledging the taxi industry's concerns.

The board, an independent tribunal, set out the stipulations for ride-hailing in B.C. a couple of weeks ago. 

The board's rules include no initial limits on the companies' fleet size, although a cap could be imposed later if congestion becomes an issue. The minimum rate the companies 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 passengers they can serve based on the municipality they belong to. 

Nine taxi companies from the Metro Vancouver area are taking the issue to court. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

'Unfair advantage'

Gall said these rules give ride-hailing companies an unfair edge over taxis. 

"The Passenger Transportation Board, in an effort to support that business model [ride-sharing companies], has set certain rules that discriminate against the taxi companies and give Uber and Lyft what the taxi companies think are an unfair advantage," Gall said. 

He argued the board doesn't have the authority to set operating rules before receiving applications by the ride-hailing companies, adding the issue was not given a fair hearing. 

A spokesperson with Uber said the company was only made aware of the court petition on Wednesday and is taking time to review the file before commenting. 

In the days before the petition was filed in court, correspondence between officials in the B.C. government show an awareness of the taxi industry's worries. 

Premier John Horgan sent a letter to the Vancouver Taxi Association on Tuesday promising to take its concerns seriously. 

"We remain convinced a solution to this problem can be found within the [Passenger Transportation Board] framework and I urge you to work closely with the board," Horgan wrote.

In addition, B.C. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena wrote to Catherine Read, chair of the board, saying some of the board's rules could negatively impact the taxi industry.

CBC News contacted the Passenger Transportation Board for comment but did not immediately hear back.

The board has 21 days to respond to the court case.

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